Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Passport? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Interactive Frommer’s Guide for iPad? Check.

Just in time for summer travel season, a batch of Frommer’s guides are being made available for the iPad and iPhone.

The Wiley, Inc.-owned travel guide maker is working with e-publishing platform Inkling to bring full guidebooks to the tablet device. Included in the guides are constant weather updates; day-by-day itineraries; interactive maps and photos overlaid with data; suggested venues, tourist attractions and restaurants; and easy-to-access links to other information within the guides.

Right now there are only seven “Day by Day” digital guides available: Alaska, California, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, Japan and Spain, with more destinations expected to come. The guides are available through iTunes and Inkling’s Web site, and range in price from $10 to $15.

Many people are already relying on a mobile device for info while traveling, and there are plenty of cheaper or free travel apps available. But many of them are just that — apps, or digital extensions of existing content — whereas Frommer’s is actually recreating the guide as an e-book. For Inkling, which launched in 2009 with the intent to reinvent the textbook, it’s the start-up’s first step outside of the higher education textbook market.

At first glance, the guides on the iPad are pretty gorgeous and could inspire even a fierce workaholic to consider taking time off. However, a few obvious drawbacks to setting aside your paper guide come to mind right away. First, you might not have data service or readily available Wi-Fi where you’re traveling. Aso, carrying around a $600 electronic device and whipping it out on a dodgy street corner to gaze at a map is probably not advisable in some places.

Lastly (cue the soundtrack for nostalgia), there’s something to be said for dead-tree versions of travel books. Like obscure maps, they may just collect dust in some office-like area of your house, but they say you were there. The notes scribbled on their pages are either first impressions you’ve forgotten or then-timely updates (“construction over Cathedral — didn’t see all of it”). Even better, you can hand them down to friends who are interested in journeying to the same place.

Fortunately a lot of the Frommer’s content, though not all, can be downloaded and cached on your iPad in advance. You can also access them from an iPhone or iPod Touch, if you’d rather not carry a tablet with you, and, as Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis points out, the digital versions of the guides, unlike paper, are constantly being updated to include new information.

The app also allows for note-taking next to entries, and users actually have the option to make those notes public to other app users.

Another bonus of being digitally connected, of course, is that the foreign translation for “Where’s the restroom?” is just a few clicks away.


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