Offbeat Guides: Lonely Planet 2.0

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Dave Sifry, Technorati founder and chairman, seems to have moved on from his blogging baby, and this time he’s taking on the travel guides industry. Launched over the weekend in a private beta, Offbeat Guides is basically a super simple and awesome way to personalize a travel guide for your destination — all customized to your name and dates and with all the information you’ll ever need — and have it delivered to you in print or digitally through PDF.

The service asks you for five pieces of data: your destination city, your current city, your name, your travel dates, and the place where you’re staying. Once you’ve entered these, you have an option to customize your travel guide — checking and unchecking the types of information you want and don’t want. From the information, you can customize basically everything from a basic overview of suburbs to things to see, do, buy, and eat. This information is gathered from various places — Wikipedia being one for the general overview, AccuWeather for the weather, etc., all among their multiple partners and free/creative commons information-distributors.

Once you’ve made your selection, you can proceed to check out and select if you want a PDF, a printed booklet version, or both. The PDF is $9.99 while the print edition is $24.99, the former being available in 10 minutes and the latter being posted to your house within 4 days (currently shipping to U.S. only).

Fortunate enough to be supplied with a coupon code, I purchased a guide on a remote location where I might be travelling to within the next six months. Was I impressed? You bet. On the cover were super-helpful tidbits like the exchange rate and the weather in the near future, along with my name imprinted in various places and personalized statements like ‘The travel guide made just for Sid Yadav.’ My location — and all suburbs thereof — were outlined in good detail, along with helpful pointers to the best restaurants and hotels throughout and even the events that would be taking place on my travel dates.

Overall, Offbeat Guides is a super helpful service and the $24.99 is a nominal price for any serious traveller who wants to carry around the kind of information Offbeat Guides gives you. Does it replace the Lonely Planet? You bet.


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