Demise of Frommer's

What do you all think of Google killing the printed Frommer's series? I was a bit stunned and saddened to hear it. Any chance Rick Steves will do the same?

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
426 posts

Count me as someone who definitely prefers printed guide books. When I got my new Rick Steves guidebooks in the mail last month for our upcoming trip, I was like a kid at Christmas! I wouldn't have had that same feeling if I bought the e-book. Like Nancy said, I use the internet for up-to-date times and fees, but for actual travel, I like the printed books. I also agree with others about Frommers - not a favorite.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Why doesn't it jive? Yesteryear's Woodstock crowd is closing in on 70. And as James points out, 50-70 (or more) is his target market. My guess is that many in Rick's flock still smoke as much weed as Compton's favorite son (Snoop Dogg for those not in the know). Compton...Long Beach...what's the difference? I actually know he's from LB but forgot when I started thinking about NWA and all the stuff that came out of Compton.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1020 posts

Frommer's has been on a downhill slide for years, while the Rick Steves brand seems to be thriving (to the disappointment of some on here). I can see Google killing print publications; after all, it is a web-based megacompany. But have you looked at the Frommer's website lately? It is so pathetic, it is an embarrassment to the parent company. Sucessive corporate owners have bled Frommer's dry. Compare travel books at a bookstore. The books don't sell because they are boring, inaccurate and years out of date, but they are still better than the website. The Frommer's forum seems to on life-support for lack of participation and interest, and the columns section seems to be down now to just Arthur Frommer's musings about cruise ships. The first travel book I read about Europe, other than "Innocents Abroad" was Arthur Frommer's own "Europe on Five Dollars A Day," so I really hate to see the brand die. But it is time.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21740 posts

@George, Rick's stance on Marijuana is likely a result of his many travels over 35+ years, where's he's observed the European philosophy of dealing with this as a medical problem rather than a criminal problem. Also, the culture and attitudes towards that sort of thing in the Pacific Northwest tend to be a bit more liberal (which would seem to be confirmed by the fact that they approved i502 (approved 56-44, which is not an overwhelming majority, but still approved). You may enjoy watching this short video: If this was approved here (NOT going to happen, according to the Federal government), it doesn't matter to me one way or the other, as I won't be using it. One big concern that I have is the possibility of more impaired drivers on the road. No one has yet invented a Breathalyzer for Cannabis, so impairment may be difficult to prove in the field. I've witnessed first-hand the effects of impaired driving on many occasions, and we should NOT be adding to that problem! Cheers!

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2104 posts

I always thought RS' target audience was the 35-50 year-olds (and beyond) who like to travel independently as opposed to the big-bus tours and cruise companies that are geared to that 50-70 year-old bracket. And even if his target is 50-70 year-olds, since when is that considered OLD? It's been quite a while since a 50 year old was considered old. I'm reaching out and almost touching 70 but I sure don't consider myself old and I do like change, as long as it's for the better. Actually Frommers (that is now going to be online only) is more geared toward the 50-70 year-olds so that doesn't make sense.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8793 posts

George not sure why you are surprised about Ricks stance on pot. He is in my age group and my age group was into pot in highschool, even junior high school. Most of us did outgrow the phase, but frankly while I do not want my kids indulging, I actually don't care too much about pot use for other people at all.. I know more then one 50 + yr old who still has an occasional toke, has not progressed to herion, and holds a job etc... Note, I also do not want my underage daughter drinking alcohol either really , so whats the difference. As for paper versus electronic books, paper is FAR superior at the beach, buy a secondhand 3 buck novel, throw it out, get it wet, its lost, who cares, buy a book online, go for a swim, come back and whole darn Ipad or E book or whatever has been stolen,lol

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
851 posts

I think Rick is an independent kind-a-guy - probably doesn't want to be bought out until he's ready to retire and cash in. He doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon...Google bought Frommer's from its publishing company; Rick built his own empire, so he can call the shots. I never liked Frommers that much so I'm unaffected...I think all paper guidebooks have way too many pages devoted to lodging and restaurants - with the internet, apps, airbnb, vrbo, tripadvisor, travel blogs, etc, this stuff on reams and reams of paper is close to useless (and outdated). (PS. I don't mind paper books at all but they should be seriously trimmed to only include things that have value. i.e. useful commentary and good maps (yes, I LOVE paper maps - they work!) - it seems like more than half of guidebooks are useless restaurant and hotel listings without the peer ratings that have been commercialized by tripadvisor, etc. It's gotten almost laughable when folks are posting about how they tear out only what they need and rebind their own books - probably a fraction of the original)

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
447 posts

Why would you want a paper book anyway? In the next 5-10 years Rick won't have them either. Schools are moving away from them. Information must be current and updated often and with the internet and online publishing it is the only way to go. Sorry Monte.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2104 posts

Hmmm, I'm not an ostrich with my head in the sand, I can see that the future is going to be all electronic technology, probably nothing on paper everything on your computer or i-phone. I just hope it waits until I'm gone. Paper books and maps are an integral part of my travel and I'm not ready to let them go. Sure I do most of my research online and I don't use guidebooks for prices and opening times etc, always double check most recent info online. But I still like the tactile sensation of holding a book in my hands and seeing info in print is helpful to me. That being said, I must agree with other poster that I never used Frommers so won't miss it. And I also agree with Agnes about Rick Steves, I don't think he's ready to sell out just yet but I do think the paper guide books will soon be a thing of the past, all will be i-phone apps and e-reader books.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Traditional paper books will never go completely away anytime soon...maybe never. There will always be a sizeable segment of the market who experience a certain something from feeling the pages, turning the pages, and closing the back cover after finishing a fine piece of literature. You simply can't get that feeling or same experience through an iPad. I'm all for technological achievement and realize there are advantages to being paperless in a 24x7 world, but I'm a traditionalist when it comes to literature and prefer an actual book. I also prefer paper magazines to online content. I have to be on a laptop all the time...the last thing I want to do on my own time is try to enjoy the paper, The New Yorker, or Little Dorrit on a screen. Still, it's all about money, and I realize there's not much money anymore in paper books, magazines, and newspapers. As for travel guidebooks, I could go either way and don't really care if they vanish or not. I don't think Frommer's is very good, so I don't use their guidebooks anyway.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21740 posts

Angela, I doubt that the Rick Steves Guidebooks will follow the same path, at least not for awhile. Based on my observations, Rick's organization has always been proactive and has been "ahead of the curve" in adapting to new technology, but has also supported their previous customers who prefer the more "traditional" methods. ETBD has been offering E-book versions of their Guidebooks for several years, and has made these available in a variety of formats to make these available to as many as possible regardless of what type of Reader(s) they're using. I can envision printed Guidebooks disappearing eventually, but I don't think that will happen anytime soon. There are still a few of us around that prefer paper copies, as in some ways it's a more "user friendly" experience. I have Guidebooks on both my iPhone and Netbook, and they work well for quick reference but the experience is somewhat "cumbersome" at times (especially when using Maps). A Tablet may be a bit easier, but I'd rather not haul one of those around when touring. If I need a reference source when out day touring, I'd much prefer using one of the "mini-Guidebooks" such as the Snapshot or city Guides. They're small, light, easy to carry and it's so much easier to leaf through a book and check the Maps than doing the same thing on a Smartphone. Cheers!

Posted by Alexander
Quad Cities, IL/IA
345 posts

Well I am in the younger generation and this news has startled me. It amazes me how the US is so ready to see books go.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1247 posts

I have fond memories of buzzing around France 50 years ago this summer, on a German moped bought in England, with my trusty "Europe on $5 a Day." Can't say I kept it down to that every day, but I had some mighty cheap days and nights. Sorry to lose Frommer's for that reason alone. Now I check out guidebooks from the library and xerox key portions, or I buy one if I'm going to be all over the country it covers. Sometimes paper, more recently e-book. I don't think paper books will ever disappear, but they'll get less common as the digital generation advances. Maps are another story; much too hard to use in e-books for actual navigation, we'll always have the paper ones (and those nifty laminated ones for the big cities). Adieu Frommer's!

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1559 posts

The only aspect of the current Frommer's travel guide books, that I like, is that they have descriptions of very many places in a country : places that are not mentioned in Rick Steves' travel guide books. I guess all of that information will be on the internet. It is the kind of information that a person reads before deciding what places in Europe and Britain to go to. If the travel guide books that I like, from Rick Steves, and Lonely Planet, and the Rough Guides, will not be printed on paper, I will not have a problem with that, because I am keeping those books (printed on paper). For several more years, those books published this year will continue to be useful and helpful. The information will be augmented by current information about hotels and restaurants, obtained from other sources. And travelers are advised to seek information of the times when a city's museums are open, when they arrive at the cities. The current information about museums, art galleries, palaces, etc. is at Tourist Information offices in Europe. (Edit) And I like to read and keep some books that are older. In the year 2006, when I was acquiring information for my trip to Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, I bought a travel guide book on Denmark, it was published in the year 1980. That book was 26 years old when I acquired it. I liked reading that book, and it was helpful to me for planning my trip to Denmark. That book is a small hardcover book, it has a red cover (red vinyl on stiff cardboard), published by Nagel of Geneva in Switzerland. That book on Denmark and Greenland has 509 pages. It does not have any information of hotels and restaurants. (The book's text is entitely in the English language). I paid a low price for that book, in a store that sells used books. And, I have a tall book of many big, beautiful, color photographs of places and things in Denmark. I bought that book, used, in the U.S.A.

Posted by Laurel
Arlington, WA
875 posts

I think we'll see the end of printed books when e-readers start smelling as good. Maps never....

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1294 posts

Will Rick follow suit? Probably not in the next couple of years, but for sure he will with further development of his smartphone/iPad Apps containing his guidebooks. Major print magazines and newspapers struggle to keep subscribers for their traditional paper versions. Those who don't develop online versions eventually buckle and go out of business. The US Postal Service is cutting Saturday mail delivery and also struggles with budget problems because people just don't send letters (they send email) and they want to pay their bills online. I often see regulars here advising posters to "wait" until Rick releases his most up-to-date yearly travel guide before they fork over the cash to get the book. But travel guide Apps can give the most current information continuously, so there is no need to wait for a full year until a book is published. So Rick might wait a bit until his current core group of Baby Boomers simply falls out of favor as his targeted demographic, and then he'll focus on appealing to the Gen Xers with more splashy Apps until he turns over the whole operation to Andy Steves who will most definitely sound the final death toll for the paper guides (if his father doesn't beat him to it before he retires - which shouldn't be that long since Andy is in his 20s and Rick is already 57 years old and really doesn't need to work until he's 67 just to support himself with a full Social Security benefits package).

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3279 posts

BBC also just announced that they were selling Lonely Planet for a loss. I think it is just a matter of time. I never use hotel and restaurant listings from guidebooks anymore and most of my trip planning comes from internet research. I still usually get a guidebook when I am going to a new place, but as the electronic options improve I will be less likely to buy paper.

Posted by Eric
Dana Point
172 posts

Snoop Dog from Compton? Afraid not, as he's makes clear in his own lyrics, he's from L.B.C. (that's Long Beach, California).

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, i for one would hate to see any books go. i still buy and read RS books and i take them w/me on my trips. I know its not the best use of my limited luggage, but i still like to read and re-read them to get the info i want/need for my future trips. Currently if find that RS books dont cover everything, but does a good job of it so i will supplement with others. Frommers is one of them. Also, i use Google alot too eventho, i have the RS and other resources. afa having e info handy, i just bought my first cell phone late last year. i dont really care to use/carry one, but i saw the need to do so when i travel. I guess if they do away with paper everything then i would be FORCED to buy sometype of web device. iac, im not into playing the buy the next gen toy game anymore, but i can bet they will make that the only game in town. if thats what will happen, then so be it, but i will be the last to do so. i just hope that RS group can make a go of the printed books for as long as they can. just an fyi, im heading to Powells books tomorrow to get some books for my next years trip. w/re to maps. what i thought was really funny on my last trip to London. I was wondering around Victoria station just looking at all of the buildings when a Japanese couple asked me for directions to the Victoria bus station. For the first time, i didnt take my london map with me, but i knew it was a couple blocks south of the train station so i tried to convey that it was south of there with little affect. Get this, the couple had an Iphone with the map/compass on the display and they still couldnt find the bus station????? they were able to zoom in/out to see the bus station, but couldnt figure out where it was relative to the train station eventho the compass pointer on their iphone was pointed in that general direction. what did Cptn Scott say in the Star Trek movie about how more technology... happy trails.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2378 posts

I don't think Frommer's demise is related to the physical paper to electronic book substitution. The whole business of travel guides thrived on the premise of them being "information aggregating products" that presented, in one product (the travel guide book), information about a destination, lists of hotels, restaurants and attractions etc. Then, as travel preferences are different among groups (but usually homogeneous across different destinations for the same groups), you had brands developing into mammoth publishers of tailor-made guides such as Fodor's (middle-age crowd), Lonely Planet (youngster on 20-30 age cohort), Michelin Guides (families), Let's Go (the hipster crowd travelling on a fast pace) etc. This business model made a lot of sense on pre-Internet days: you bought a guide of the brand whose "vibe" you identified with, and they'd give you insights on places you wanted to visit. However, Internet changed everything. It is not about electronic PDF or Kindle guides or the likes as much as it is that now you have hundreds of easy free information sources, giant user-generated content based sites (TripAdvisor etc) and travel forums. Hence, these business lost their ability to make good money selling guides and using the revenue to pay staff to keep scouting countries/cities/areas. The idea of all-encompassing listings of restaurants and hotels is totally moot with sites like Booking, Expedia, OpenTable, DiningCity. Frommer's had too wide of an audience, and a not so engaged one, to become a online community (like Lonely Planet did). Hence, it was doomed to disappear.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2378 posts

(continuation) So I think the future of travel guide "brands" lies on forming online communities where people can interact (like the Helpline of RS, a good idea albeit the interface is terrible and reminiscent of the early 2000s) and the brand can survive on a more dynamic fashion. Of all travel guides out there, I think the Eyewitness series is the most likely to last longer because of its high-quality photos (it's main appeal). If you think rationally, it makes no sense to have guides with restaurants, hotels and attractions with opening hours and/or prices that might or might not be up-to-date when you have ubiquitous wi-fi and ever-more-sophisticated apps on portable devices that give that info instantly. Why would anyone want to scoop through a recommendation list of restaurants near the Trastevere in Rome when one can open an App on his tablet, have it locate the reader by GPS positioning, and instantly present a customized list of restaurants opened at that moment with menus and prices one click away and even pictures of the meals, organized by a filter of price and/or distance?

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10594 posts

"BBC also just announced that they were selling Lonely Planet for a loss." Doesn't surprise me. That brand's been going down the toilet for years. I still can't forget reading a 2010 edition of the Netherlands that noted the Rijksmuseum would be closing for renovations "sometime in 2007". Did they even bother to proofread the book before they slapped a new cover on it? Even the Michelin books have been bleeding cash for the past decade. I agree that the Eyewitness and Insight guides will probably be the last survivors. Can't discount the value of pictures. I doubt the RS series will last long after he retires. So much of his business is based on his personal image as a friendly, normal guy guiding you through Europe. Take him out of the picture, and the product dilutes itself into generica.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2378 posts

@James: I think the guide-writing side of business might suffer, but if they are clever, they will keep the tours going. I'm not sure what makes RS more money, tours or guides (I bank on the former).

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
883 posts

The rapid transition to electronic only versions of books is inevitable given the economics and desire for the most current information available. Count me as one who still keeps various old guide books on Europe, published well before RS hit the scene, with my hand-written annotations for those trips. For some, journals, blogs and the like, stored in some massive computer in an unknown location, will satisfy them. As to RS's recommendations food, housing, etc., some are worthwhile, some not. He provides more information to consider before making decisions. What he brought to the travel table years ago made travel to Europe understandable and fun. Far too many folks were indeed fearful to dip their toes into Europe.....akin to scaredy-cat freshman entering high school on the first day versus seniors with all that swagger (i.e. experienced travelers).

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
616 posts

Regarding the demise of the book... I work in a public library in a downtown core "priority neighbourhood" and at this point, if printed books go, the divide between rich and poor, and educated and undereducated will be an enormous chasm. Every day I see children, teens, and young adults who do not have a computer at home trying to get their schoolwork done on their 60-minute time slot at the public library computers. Occasionally we extend but generally the computers are too busy and booked up back to back. And we close at 8pm. Some of our smaller community branches don't even open on Sundays and Mondays. How do those kids compete against kids who have one or two computers at home and all hours of the evening and weekend to work on them? If schools go to online texts they had better keep their computer labs open till all hours or these kids will be left further behind than they already are. Back to travel... I do love my print guidebooks and will be purchasing them until they stop producing them.

Posted by Alex
Longmont, CO, USA
523 posts

I always have thought Frommers website was terrible, the forums even worse to deal with. Fodors runs a close second in my view...terrible set up for their forums. Although years ago I had a very lively thread going on Fodors about the invasion of Iraq...wish I could get that one from them, so many people proudly thumping their chests and making predictions of WMD, etc.
I used Frommers, Fodors, Baedecker, and RS paper guides for our first visit to Austria long ago. The last trip to Austria, Switzerland, and Italy was all using RS books on my tablet. Being able to access RS guides, Google, and Tripadvisor was a great advantage. Although I hate to see the paper go away I find the electronic lighter and more up to date.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21740 posts

@Andre L., "I'm not sure what makes RS more money, tours or guides (I bank on the former)." I think you'd probably be right! I seem to recall reading somewhere on Rick's Blog that by about mid-February, he had already sold 10,000 seats on 2013 tours. At an average cost of about $3500 PP, that would seem to be a tidy sum and likely much more than his Guidebooks earn. When the final tally is in at year-end, I suspect the number of tour seats to have exceeded 12,000. Cheers!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Back to travel... I do love my print guidebooks and will be purchasing them until they stop producing them. a big +1 happy trails.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1268 posts

I am a little saddened as well to see it go...I have more then my share of Frommers Day by Day guides...but you know what...I just purchased Frommers California guide in the app store for my cost me $6, compared to prob $15 for the paper version...I can bookmark, highlight...the awesome thing is of course the links to websites that are automatic, whereas using the paper version you would have to note and go on whatever you are using to look at the web. I am actually quite enjoying it, and other then internet links, I can use offline as well. It's very easy to look up anything I highlighted/bookmarked. (yeah, I know a battery can't go dead in a paper book)...I would have loved it when we had a trip overseas a few years ago and I had to decided between carrying 4-5 guidebooks for London, Paris, Munich, Milan, Venice (and for only a few days in each city) or leaving something out of my luggage because of weight restrictions (and no, I am not one of those people who can rip up my books, or leave them behind) awesome would it have been to have all those guidebooks on my ipad mini (well, it would have been even more awesome to have had an ipad at that I was one of those people who didn't see the point of digital cameras or mp3 players, but once the tech got better and the price come down...well hey, they make life much easier.

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
613 posts

Google, a company that is built to utilize the internet. Doesn't surprise me at all, not saying it's right but it's not surprising. If any internet company buys a printed book company this will be the norm, however I don't think RS will sell out to anyone since he is also into many other aspects of travel, especially guided tours. What is surprising is the price Google paid for Frommers, according to an article about it they paid 25 million, not a big sum considering what internet companies sell for, but what that tells me that the demise of printed Frommers guidebooks was probably forthcoming. But all things being equal, with them discontinuing the printed format they will probably make the internet version better. Lets face it, bookstores are going out of business, when Borders had s store near my home I would often go in there, what I saw was people sitting and reading the books, were they buying them, I don't know, but it looked like a library. As we know they also sold CDs, when it comes to music it is so much easier and makes more sense when you can buy a single song for .99 cents or 1.29 at the Istore instead of buying the entire CD. Now the question is, will Barnes and Noble be next?

Posted by terry
44 posts

Oh let's hope this will not happen to Rick. Love his books & shows. He and his staff seem to have a special style.

Posted by Frank II
4657 posts

Rick has stated in interviews that his biggest moneymakers are the tours. Without them he wouldn't be in business. Sadly, the printed guidebook is on its way out. But it is not going to be replaced by ebooks. I believe the next phase of travel information will come in the form of apps. I have plenty of them on my phone now. Apps for specific cities, specific countries, reviews, recommendations, etc. Why carry a heavy guidebook when you can put apps on your smartphone. (Of course, it will mean having to get a smartphone but that is the wave of the future.) While lots of people don't like change, look at the bright side. A book is updated once a year; an app can be updated as often as needed. A book may give you directions to a place, an app can guide you there via GPS. A book may give recommendations but they can be up to a year old. An app can link to a webpage with recent recommendations. Look for Rick Steves apps of individual countries and cites very soon. (I'm g uessing at this.)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21740 posts

@Frank II, "A book is up-dated once a year; an app can be up-dated as often as needed." That's definitely one of the advantages of using electronic methods rather than printed books. However, E-publishers will have to determine some way to ensure a revenue stream from the up-dates. One of the issues with E-books is that if readers want the newest version, that usually means buying another copy of the entire book. It's not possible to just buy the revisions. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.....

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
708 posts

FYI, Snoop Dogg has become a Rastafarian and changed his name to Snoop Lion.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2378 posts

Companies will adapt eventually. Lonely Planet, for instance, has become very active on the app business and is re-focusing on a 20-35 core demographic. I have a couple apps from them, they are practical and work beautifully if you have a smartphone/tablet with GPS capabilities (virtually anything selling right now).