Dave Sifry’s new Offbeat Guides – the future for travel publishing?

All round web-guru Dave Sifry has just launched a new beta travel guide site called Offbeatguides.com There's more info at TechCrunch too. Unfortunately you can't see the content unless you have a special invitation code at the moment which is a bit disappointing. Soon as I have one, I'll comment in more detail.

The basic premise is personalised on-demand printed travel
. So you compile only the pages/chapters you want and it's printed for
you and mailed to you for 25 US dollars.

I have no doubt that the technology will work – this is the
way guidebooks will go. It's all about personalisation. And like Dave I also
think that we will still want a tangible book rather than a PDF file for a
handheld device. Something as a souvenir, something to scribble notes in… so
much nicer than a faceless file on a computer.

Where I still struggle to agree though is in the content
Dave describes how he used to get really frustrated culling content
from all over the place on-line and compiling a file of stuff that he printed
out to take with him. So this technology does that job for you with a clever
search engine that he has developed. But how do you verify the accuracy of the
content in the first place? The web is full of stuff that's out of date and
inaccurate. Binding it all up in a nice book might make it feel like a proper
guide book… but is it?
Can you trust it?

Dave does say that he is doing deals with 'trusted
content providers'. I wonder what impact that will have on the economics. I
can't imagine he will be able to print a personalised guide for 25 bucks if the
content has been licenced. It will be interesting to see.

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