Are Guidebooks Over?
One of the quickest ways to figure out whether a new guidebook series is any good is to check out the advice for your hometown. In my case, that's Washington. So, for example, if a book's authors are still recommending the U Street corridor as the hippest nightlife scene in D.C. (the cooler members of the staff tell me that honor has passed to H Street NE and Barracks Row in Southeast), chances are they're not going to be up on the newest and most exciting developments in other cities, either.
So I was just flipping through the D.C. edition of Fodor's new "25 Best" series on various cities (others include NY, London, Paris and Barcelona). The book does an adequate job of covering the basics, but sure enough, no H Street for nightlife (they tout staid old Adams Morgan). (They also include this bit of advice: "There is no bad time to visit Washington." Guess they've never been here in August.)
Anyway, makes me wonder if travel guidebooks have become irrelevant -- outdated before they even hit the shelves -- and whether folks still rely on them, or if everyone has moved on to online forums, blogs and vox populi advice sites. If you do still use guidebooks, do you have a favorite series? I'm partial to Lonely Planet's stuff, as well as the Rough Guides, for their unvarnished, real-traveler approach. I'm not a big fan of citizen advice sites -- as I've mentioned in this space before, I find them confusing, and prefer experts with proven credentials. Still, the fact is that when I head out on the road these days, more often than not it's with a folder full of Internet printouts -- not a book.
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