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Lonely Planet – Time Out – Time Up August 5, 2013

Posted by Audit Monkey in The State of the British Nation.
Tags: , , ,

With the summer holidays being here, time for a holiday related story. As some of the more well travelled readers of the blog will recognise, Lonely Planet publish a range of travel guides for countries across the globe. No self-respecting traveller would leave the country without a copy of the relevant Lonely Planet guide tucked under their arm. However, things are on the wane at Lonely Planet; book sales have been declining and a number of staff writers and editors have been laid off. (See Sunday Times 28th July 2013.) Some commentators are blaming the rise of the travel app. Why buy a book when you can download an app to your phone and away you go?

Personally it’s got nothing to do with the rise the machines and the digital age, it’s editorial content in terms of quantity and quality.

Charge one, quantity. When I purchased the Lonely Planet guide to NYC in 1999, it ran to some 250 pages. Fast forward to the mid noughties and the 5th edition ran to some 470 pages. It’s simply too long and too much information for the average traveller to assimilate.

Charge two, quality. Taking the NYC 1999 edition as an example, it was a delightful book written by David Ellis, a native New Yorker. Although some of the material may have been contributed by other parties, the feel of the book was that David Ellis was the sole author and contributor. In comparison, the 5th edition has three co-authors! No wonder the common complaint regarding Lonely Planet guides is that they are disparate and not joined up.

So what would I do to reverse sales? Simple:

i) have one sole author for each guide and preferably someone who has lived in the relevant city or country rather than a commissioned writer.
ii) slim the guides down. Succinct guides rather than biblical productions. No point changing the format (which the recent editions have done) when the devil is in the detail.
iii) inclusion of more ‘Walking Guides’ which were prominent in the NYC 1999 edition. These ensured I saw parts of the neighbours or districts that I may have otherwise missed. These seem to have been reduced in recent guides and other countries.
iv) better maps! I won’t mention which Far East city I spent at least an hour walking around looking for a suggested gallery without success!

Right that’s me finished. Time to dust off the suitcase, locate the suntan lotion, grab the Time Out guide and queue for Passport Control. Adios!

Post Script: No wonder David Ellis could string six words together. Check out his profile on Linkedin. As we would say in my part of South London, Top Man.



1. ITauditSecurity - September 8, 2013

This post looked lonely so I thought I’d comment. 🙂
Walking guides aren’t too popular over on this side of the pond. But I agree with your points. 1 author, slimmer guide.

Isn’t there an app for this? That might be a better sell.

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