Originally posted July 10, 2007.
Traveling to a new location for vacation (and sometimes business) can be an exciting event and generally a lot of planning goes into the effort so you make the best use of your time. Often building your ideal itinerary may necessitate the purchase of several travel guides (or in my case diligent note taking in the cafe at BN) and I can only imagine that this situation is even more relevant if you travel as a family. Having had a great time - and probably seeing only half of what you thought you would - you leave the travel guides behind in the hotel room because they don't fit in the bags.
What if you were able to build a specific guide before you left that you could either print out before or carry with you as an electronic e-book? This is an idea that Penguin publishing unit DK are experimenting with which allows users to select content from their travel guides and build their own guide. I found the site a little clunky but the idea is sound and as a electronic platform DK could be in a position to offer far more content than appears in their DK travel books. If Penguin has other travel related content this could also be integrated with the DK travel content to create a distinct product that perhaps has more breadth than a user could get other than buying multiple books.
Travel (book) related websites are (or have the potential to) generating decent advertising revenues. Since a travel guide is a glorified directory it will not be long until the web is the primary mode of distribution for this content as has been the case with traditional data driven directories (i.e. booksinprint). As e-products, the integration with content from other publishers, map applications, photos, video and Podcasting is not far away. For example, I want to visit Boston and I build a travel book that includes a history and background information on Boston, a walking tour of North Boston, a satellite map, restaurant recommendations in an around the walk and after lunch I want to go to the Museum of Fine Arts where I buy admission tickets, add the highlights of the collection tour and download the MP3 audio tour. Ultimately, I want this 'packaged' so that I can either print it out and/or retain as an e-book or e-collection for future use.
But wait a minute, does the interaction end there? Conceivably, I will be taking pictures and forging my own impressions about the visit. And perhaps I want to include experiential things, like what I had for lunch and whether I liked it. So the publishing platform I use to create my travel book of Boston should be something I can edit outside the confines of the publisher supplied content. As such the DK application is not so functional but there are options elsewhere that are starting to appear - and in the future there maybe nothing to stop DK from adding this functionality.
One such application has been developed by SharedBook a software company in lower Manhattan. Sharedbook works with content owners who want to extend their relationship with their customers and enable them to self-select content and build their own book and in the process adding their own content. SharedBook works with customers who may not seem like publishers such as Regent Cruises and legacy.com but the functionality is similar to what I describe above. Clients of Regent cruises are able to select some core content to create their book while also adding their own specific content. So they can add pictures, annotations or full length essays on their cruise experience. There are a surprising number of clients who take advantage of this program since it serves as a high quality memento of their journey.
Sharedbook has a relatively easy to implement solution and their model has enabled 'non-publishers' to treat as 'content' assets that otherwise would remain one-dimensional as marketing or promotional material. In the case of traditional publishers, the Sharedbook platform can allow publishers to engage their customers directly and perhaps with a stronger link because the publishers content goes along with the customers positive experience. Obviously, customers pay for the privilege of creating their unique books but the prices are both reasonable and set by the content owner.
Back to my Boston example and using a SharedBook I could have a coffee table book produced with all the elements I selected before I left, those I added during my trip and the those I added after I return home. Once home I could scan the MFA ticket stub, the restaurant menu and add photos with annotations. Then I have my own memento of my trip. Models such as those I have described above will become more prevalent as publishers see the value in opening up their content repositories and allowing consumers to interact with their content. It is a trend worth following.
UPDATE: I wrote the above yesterday on the train back from Washington. Kassia Krozser of Medialoper and Booksquare was also writing about SharedBook at the same time. Here is her take.