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indie guide appAll travel guides narrow down sprawling cityscapes into an organized list of things to do, but 200 pages later, the information can still be overwhelming to a newcomer. A startup called Indie Guides takes a different tack by not including major tourist attractions and not catering to everyone. Instead, it carefully selects 50 addresses for each of its mobile city guides.

We first learned about these artistically inclined travel guides from an article on CNTraveler.com that describe the write-ups as “worded in an easygoing style, as if you were reading a friend’s emailed list of recommendations.” And in fact, friends’ recommendations they are.

As musicians, the creators of the guides reached out to fellow artists around the world and elicited their very personal choices for things to do and see in Athens, Berlin, Istanbul, Madrid, Rotterdam and Paris, in categories such as culture, drink, eat, shopping and going out. The result is an eclectic mix of boutiques, hidden live music venues, art workshops and galleries that you may easily have walked past had you not known what was on the other side. On their site, the creators of the guide describe their picks as “subjective, yes, but informed, honest and passionate.”

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Being musically minded, founder Anne Le Gal and friends have also crafted a streamable playlist for each location, based on the local music scene.

The app — for both iOS and Android devices — offers an offline map so you can travel with your recommendations regardless of Internet connection. Each guide costs $1.99, with the exception of Paris, which is free for the next six months. A guide to Tokyo is debuting in March, and Rome is set to launch in April.

Would you be interested in an Indie Guide? Which cities would you like to see guides for next?

— written by Brittany Chrusciel

frommers guidebooksEditor’s Note: Since the publication of this post, Arthur Frommer has purchased his company back from Google, ensuring that Frommer’s guidebooks will continue to be printed. Learn more in 56 Years Later: Europe on 5 Dollars a Day.

I wasn’t yet alive, let alone traveling, when Arthur Frommer wrote his very first travel guide, “Europe on 5 Dollars a Day,” back in 1957. But after years of toting more recent Frommer’s publications around the globe, I found myself mourning just a little bit when I read that the company has ceased publication of print guidebooks.

The death knell was sounded last week by Skift.com, who reported that many of the authors contracted for 29 upcoming Frommer’s titles were told by editors that the books they were working on would not be published. Extensive destination information is still available online at Frommers.com, and a limited number of “Day by Day” guides can be purchased as e-editions on Inkling.com. Frommer’s was bought by Google in August 2012.

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On this very blog, we once asked, “Are guidebooks dying out?” I wrote then that I still used guidebooks — along with online resources — to plan every trip, and dozens of readers commented in agreement. Three years later, my position hasn’t changed: “The combination of maps, recommended itineraries, comprehensive reviews and historical context is something I haven’t found in any other single source, so I’ll continue to use guidebooks as long as they continue to be printed.”

Fortunately for those of us who wouldn’t plan a trip without them, other guidebook series such as Fodor’s, Lonely Planet and Eyewitness Guides can still be found on the shelves. But for how much longer?

— written by Sarah Schlichter

guidebooksI’m currently in the final stages of booking a New England leaf-peeping vacation for October. In my trip-planning pile, alongside a few maps and an ever-expanding packing list, I’ve got a stack of at least five area guidebooks that I’ve checked out from my local library.

Will I lug all those heavy guidebooks with me on my trip? No way; even though I’m driving, not flying, I’m still aiming to pack as lightly as possible. But I’ve relied on this array of guidebooks to help me find hotels and plot out my itinerary, and you can bet that one or two of my favorites will find their way into my suitcase on departure day.

To some travelers, this probably seems perfectly logical. To others, I must sound like a dinosaur.

Last month, London’s Financial Times issued a lengthy report on the declining sales of traditional print guidebooks and the rise of new technology (such as mobile apps and iPad guides) that is emerging to replace them. Why would someone need a guidebook, asks the article, when you can use an “augmented reality app” like Google Goggles on your smartphone to find a wealth of free, up-to-the-second information about your destination?

The media has been prophesying the death of guidebooks for years now. Back in 2006, the Guardian speculated that podcasts would be the newcomer to knock guidebooks off their perch. In the past decade, Web sites offering thousands of traveler-generated hotel and restaurant reviews have tried to drown out the opinions of a few professional travel writers. And of course there have always been detractors who suggest that guidebooks are a crutch standing in the way of getting to know a place in a truly genuine way, by relying solely on one’s own eyes and experiences.

Despite all this, I still feel that guidebooks play an important role — though not the only role — in planning and taking a trip. The combination of maps, recommended itineraries, comprehensive reviews and historical context is something I haven’t found in any other single source, so I’ll continue to use guidebooks as long as they continue to be printed.

What about you — do you still use print guidebooks to help you plan a trip, or have you turned to other resources?

–written by Sarah Schlichter