The Politics of Travel


Travel writers on the U.S. presidential election

10 . 27. 2004

* * * * * * * *

Pick up most American travel magazines and you wouldn’t know the United States was about to elect a president. Their focus remains, as ever, on Hawaiian vacations and the latest hot restaurants in Rome, Paris and Las Vegas. We’ve always thought it tough to separate politics from travel. In some cases, as in the debate over the U.S. ban of visits to Cuba, the two are directly related. More often, they overlap indirectly. Even if you’re seeking escape on a Mexican beach or an Alpine ski lift, you can’t close your eyes to the world around you -- and, like it or not, that world is affected by politics.

In light of the November 2 election, we’ve collected a number of recent quotes related to U.S. politics from leading travel writers who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, even at the risk of alienating some of their readers.

Rick Steves:

“Why don’t I just shut up and write my guidebooks? (As many people tell me — in ALL CAPS.) Three decades of people-filled travel and my personal faith have given me a passion for what I consider ‘the sanctity of life.’ While Conservatives claim to champion this issue, sanctity of life is about more than one issue. People around the world who love and respect what America stands for are hoping the American people will decide wisely on November 2. Since children, the world’s poor, and the environment can’t vote, it’s up to us to take these needs into account and vote for more than our immediate financial interest.”

-From Rick Steves’ Election Newsletter

Jonathan Raban:

“I think this is one of the worst periods American history has ever known. I think America is currently stuck with a terrifying administration, and I don’t understand why more Americans aren’t as alarmed...I think the Bush administration stands for something completely terrifying, particularly in relation to the rest of the world. Yes, its domestic policies are ghastly, the consequences of the Patriot Act are ghastly for Americans, but what is much, much more worrying is the emergence of America as the most loathed country on the face of the Earth, the country that’s seen as the dangerous bear, that’s distrusted by most countries, that appears to behave with a kind of petulance, a sort of adolescent quality about it that you wouldn’t believe a major power, the world’s last superpower, would be capable of.”

-From A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About their Craft, Lives and Inspiration by Michael Shapiro

P.J. O’Rourke:

“[I]magine having a Democrat as commander-in-chief during the War Against Terrorism, with Oprah Winfrey as secretary of defence. Big hug for Mr Taliban. Republicans are squares, but it's the squares who know how to fly the bombers, launch the missiles and fire the M-16s. Democrats would still be fumbling with the federally mandated trigger locks.

One-time governor of insignificant Vermont Howard Dean wanted a cold war on terrorism. Dean said that we'd won the Cold War without firing a shot (a statement that doubtless surprised veterans of Korea and Vietnam). Dean said that the reason we'd won the Cold War without firing a shot was because we were able to show the communists ‘a better ideal.’

But what is the ‘better ideal’ that we can show the Islamic fundamentalists? Maybe we can tell them: ‘Our President is a born-again. You're religious lunatics - we're religious lunatics. America was founded by religious lunatics! How about those Salem witch trials? Come to America and you could be Osama bin Ashcroft. You could get your own state, like Utah, run by religious lunatics. You could have an Islamic Fundamentalist Winter Olympics - the Chador Schuss.’”

-From the London Telegraph

Peter Matthiessen:

“These people are lying and lying and lying and lying, the environment, the economy, Medicare, Iraq. They’ll do anything to get their errand boy back in office. George W. Bush is the errand boy for these interests and doesn’t seem the least bit curious about anything else. There’s a Bush hagiography which had one negative adjective in the whole book, perhaps the writer failed to realize how damning it was. ‘Incurious’ -- imagine the head of the free world being incurious. Our president wants to grow up to be a redneck. A redneck is not somebody who is ignorant, but somebody who is ignorant and proud of it. How tragic to have such a person as the head of the free world.”

-From A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About their Craft, Lives and Inspiration by Michael Shapiro

Jeff Greenwald:

(In response to a question about whether the rest of the world should boycott travel to the U.S. to protest Bush administration actions)

“I think that a boycott of travel to the United States would be a very good idea, as long as the reasons are well defined. I think the actions of the Bush administration are incorrigible. They’re putting the entire planet at risk, they’re arrogant, and I think it would be good if the rest of the world stood up and said, no, we won’t put up with this. It would have to be over something that has global significance, like the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Accords. And it also has to be realistic. It couldn’t be something like asking the U.S. to pull out of Iraq, because that’s driven by something far larger than even the people who vote in this country have the power to affect.”

-From Motionsickness

WorldHum on the Politics of Travel Writers

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Fodor's Blog

Posted by Chika On 3:46 PM 0 comments

Travel Writer Reviews His Contract

Tough Travel-Writing Medicine

Fodor's Blog

October 26, 2004

Many of the articles posted on Travel Writers: The Travails of Travel Writing, a blog created by travel writer Carl Parkes, seem almost relentlessly cynical about travel writing (see in particular “The Truth About Travel Guidebooks,” “The Travel Writer as Freeloader,” and “Thomas Swick on the State of Travel Writing”). As a guidebook editor, my gut reaction is to be defensive when I read claims that guidebooks are boring and outdated, and that they “fudge things.” (Those are MY BOOKS you’re talking about, buddy.)

Then again, I have bookmarked Parkes’s blog and I check it nearly every day. And if you twist my arm just a little, I’ll admit that there’s some truth in it.

So read it, enjoy it, and by all means, demand more of your guidebooks. Write us letters, send us e-mail, tell us what sucks, and we’ll look into it. You, the traveler, the reader, and -- let’s not forget -- the consumer, have the power to help us improve books. Demand more. If harsh criticism results in better guidebooks, I’m all for it.

Posted by Shannon Kelly at 10/26/2004, 01:29 PM

Fodor's Blog

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Best Selling Author with Cheroot

What's With All the "National Best Sellers"?

How so many books get to the top of the charts.


By Sean Rocha

Oct. 15, 2004

Walk into a bookstore, and it can seem as though every book is billed as a "national best seller." It's not hard to explain why: There are numerous best-seller lists on which to base the claim, and the lists don't always anoint the same books. On Thursday, for example, six of the most prominent top-10 fiction lists included 22 different titles. How do these best-seller lists work? And why don't they all list the same books?

There hasn't always been such an abundance of lists. According to Michael Korda's Making the List, the first best-seller list in America began in 1895 as a monthly column in a now defunct literary magazine called The Bookman. The oldest continuously published list was introduced in 1912 by Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times Book Review began publishing its list as a regular weekly feature in 1942. Now there are more than 40 best-seller lists that report how well books are doing either nationally or in various segments of the market—in particular regions, at certain chain stores, at independent bookstores nationwide. However, no list-maker tracks every book sold in the country; even the national lists draw on a sample of actual sales data from booksellers and use it to extrapolate total national sales.

The industry bellwether is the New York Times list, due to the prominence of the newspaper and the scope of its sales survey. Each week, the Times receives sales reports from almost 4,000 bookstores, along with reports from wholesalers that sell to 50,000 other retailers, including gift shops, department stores, newsstands, and supermarkets. John Wright, the assistant to the best-sellers editor at the Times, said the paper does not reveal the precise methodology by which its list is compiled. But we do know that the rankings are based on unit, not dollar, figures and account for sales during a Sunday to Saturday week.

To report sales to the Times, booksellers use a form provided by Times editors. The form lists titles the editors think are likely to sell well. Although there is space below for writing in additional titles, this practice has been controversial. Some critics (particularly independent-bookstore owners and small publishers) believe the Times form makes it more difficult for quiet, word-of-mouth hits to make the Times list. Whatever the cause, the Times list certainly makes "mistakes": A recent study of best sellers by Alan Sorensen, an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, found 109 hardcover fiction books that did not make the Times list in 2001 and 2002 but sold better than some that did.

Other best-seller lists draw on smaller survey samples. The San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times (among other newspapers) publish lists that rank sales in their regions. Barnes & Noble and Amazon calculate best-seller lists based exclusively on their own sales—the Barnes & Noble list includes transactions both on the company's Web site and at its more than 870 stores. The American Booksellers Association's "Book Sense" list surveys only independent bookstores, compiling data from about 460 of the estimated 2,000 independent bookstores in the United States. (And Library Journal, a trade magazine, even launched a list recently that is not based on sales at all; instead, it ranks the books "most borrowed" from libraries.)

Best-seller lists generally separate hardcover and paperback books and also parse by category: fiction, nonfiction, advice, children's, etc. There are exceptions: Barnes & Noble, for example, lumps together hardcover and paperback sales while retaining the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, and USA Today runs a single, unified list of the top 150.

Since the many lists represent different pieces of the total book-sales pie—and even those representing the same slice use different samples—there can be some startling divergences among the rankings. (Some lists are also faster than others to record sales, which can exaggerate these differences.) For example, on Wednesday, Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen ranked No. 10 among the ABA's independents but only came in at No. 121 on USA Today's list. The No. 7 book on Amazon, War Trash by Ha Jin, was not in Barnes & Noble's top 25 while the No. 3 book on Barnes & Noble, Anita Shreve's Light on Snow, was only No. 22 on Amazon—and neither book had yet made it onto the Times or Publishers Weekly lists.

Best-seller lists indicate how a book is selling relative to other books in a given geographical area or niche of the market, but they don't reveal how many copies a book has sold or how much money consumers have spent on a given title. Movie buffs can log onto the Internet Movie Database and find out how much money a film took in at the box office the week before. But readers who love The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, which just had a long run at No. 1 on almost every fiction best-seller list, have no way to tell from the rankings whether it is selling 1,000 copies a week or 1 million, or how much money it has made.

In part, definitive figures on book sales don't appear in best-seller lists because timely, authoritative data can be hard to come by, even for publishers. The larger companies, such as Holtzbrinck (FSG, Holt, Picador, St. Martin's) or Bertelsmann (Random House, Knopf, Doubleday) have increasingly sophisticated in-house systems that update sales data for their own titles on a weekly or daily basis, based on figures that sales reps get from book retailers across the country. These systems have blind spots, however: Airports and supermarkets, for example, are slower to report point-of-sale data, so it can sometimes take two to three months for publishers to obtain sales numbers from these venues.

And publishing house bean-counters must also contend with the book world's peculiar return policy, which allows retailers to send any books they cannot sell back to the publisher—for a full refund. Only when a book is bought and retained by the customer does it count as a sale for the publisher. As a result, for the publisher, sales figures are always provisional pending a costly adjustment for returns—and returns can be huge, sometimes amounting to between 40 percent and 50 percent of books shipped.

So how many books do you actually need to sell to make it onto, say, the Times list? There is no defined threshold, but according to the Stanford study, one book made the hardcover fiction list selling only 2,108 copies a week; more typically, the median weekly sales figure in the study was 18,717. And most books can't keep even these modest sale rates up for long: Sales generally peak during a book's second week on the list and then steadily decline. Over a period of six months, the median best seller in the Stanford study averaged weekly sales of just over 3,600 copies.

Incidentally, the Stanford study would not have been possible even five years ago—the professor who conducted it would have had trouble obtaining accurate data. But in 2001, a Dutch company called VNU introduced Nielsen BookScan, which reports industry-wide sales figures and is available only by subscription. Like the national best-seller lists, BookScan relies on sampling—in their case, about 4,500 retailers—but BookScan reveals hard data on unit sales for books. The Washington Post bases its rankings on BookScan data, but Nielsen requires that the Post keep unit sales figures out of the paper.

Of course, the absence of definitive sales data on best-seller lists generally suits publishers just fine since the uncomfortable truth is that sales of most books, even those doing relatively well, are pretty low. Publishers like to promote books as "national best sellers" in part because the term creates a sense of momentum and critical consensus that the phrase "over 25,000 copies sold"—which would actually be a pretty good figure for literary fiction sales in hardcover—does not.

Clearly, publishers can't call any old book a "national best seller," but there are no industry-wide rules about how well books must perform to earn the "national" part of the claim. A ranking on any of the lists with a country-wide survey (such as Amazon or USA Today) clearly suffices, but publishers have varying policies on how many regional lists a book must appear on (and how widely dispersed those lists must be) before the title can be promoted as a "national" hit.

What makes these distinctions important is that there's more than just a gold "best seller" sticker at stake: Many bookstores discount whatever is on the best-seller list—often the Times' list—and display the books prominently, which can further accelerate sales. At this point, a book's reputation can snowball: Anxious buyers get the sense that they should read a book because other people are doing it. The Stanford study offers the first quantification of the sales benefit from making the Times hardcover fiction list: While it has no discernible impact for famous authors like Danielle Steel or John Grisham, on average it gives a 57 percent boost to first-time authors who make the list.

The Truth Behind "Best Seller" Lists

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The Truth about Travel Guidebooks

Posted by Chika On 1:40 PM 0 comments

Old Chinese Postcard

National Geographic Adventure

Pelton's World

Cooking the Books

Five things travel guides never tell you.

Robert Young Pelton

I confess. I used to edit a travel guidebook series. The kind of books that said "eat here," "stay there," "visit this." I hired cool, funny people to boil down firsthand travel accounts into a few pithy pages, figuring that truly curious travelers would want to discover local gems in both the most touristed and most dangerous places. Well, I was wrong. The world didn't seem to want to be too far from the madding crowd—they wanted to know what time to get in line for the Louvre. The experience did, however, afford me the chance to compare, investigate, and become one of the world's greatest experts on the travel guide business. So from me to you, I will pass along the top five secrets, in no particular order, that guidebook publishers don't want you to know about their products.


It can take up to two years to get a book from drawing board to bookstore. If the guide clutched in your jet-lagged hands is "annually updated," I guarantee large chunks of its information were gathered long before the publication date. There's no way even a freshly published guide could address the current conditions in, say, Iraq in their latest editions. When looking for the most up-to-date, reliable safety information, I trust Google ("tourist + killed" usually does the trick).


Have you ever noticed how writers avoid telling you if they have actually been to a place or, if they have, how long ago? You can't expect a poorly paid guidebook writer with a three-month deadline to actually visit every listing in the book, especially if it's a guide to a country the size of Russia or Brazil. Whenever they start to use autopilot vocabulary to describe a standard budget hotel room—"cheap and cheerful," "cozy and comfortable"—chances are the writer has never seen the place.


Developing countries need tourist dollars, but mass tourism needs a pretty face—even if the business bolsters some of the world's uglier inequities: underpaid labor and prostitution, to name just two. If a travel guide to CancĂșn or Thailand told you the whole truth about the impact tourism has had on the region's society, you probably wouldn't want to go, let alone buy the guidebook.


Ever since Marco Polo came back from the East raving about the Gobi, travel guides have been sending battalions of tourists to destroy the world's treasured destinations. The "ant trails" carved by these hordes are usually infested with beach vendors (Goa), touts (the Great Pyramids), and thieves (take your pick)—not smiling locals wearing grass skirts or lederhosen. Attractions in popular guidebooks are never quite the idyllic places you imagine them to be. Even travel guide writers like Rick Steves can't book a room at some of their "off the beaten path" places anymore.


No single guide has it all. I will say, however, that Lonely Planet provides some excellent city maps, Rough Guides have great cultural backgrounders, Michelin Red knows where to get a good meal, and if you like ancient monuments the Blue Guides rule. I'll even give a big thumbs up to the Trailblazer series. But most of this stuff can be scrawled into a notebook at the library and added to the up-to-date info you've culled from the Web. As for me, yeah, I still write guidebooks—but they skip hotels, restaurants, tours, and attractions. Ask the locals where to go and what to do. Travel is still an adventure, after all. That's something that the guidebooks seem to forget.

10 Better Choices

Tired of clinging to that guidebook like it's a security blanket? Try reading something that tells you how to appreciate the art of travel rather than how to spend money. Here are ten insightful travelogues that will inspire rather than dictate.

The Beach, by Alex Garland

First-Time Around the World, by Doug Lansky

Globetrotter Dogma, by Bruce Northam

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Mecca, by Sir Richard Francis Burton

The Practical Nomad, by Edward Hasbrouck

Traveler's Handbook, edited by Amy Sohanpaul

The Traveler's Tool Kit, by Rob Sangster

Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354, by Ibn Battuta

The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts

National Geographic Adventure Column by Robert Young Pelton on Travel Guidebooks

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The World of Suzi Wong

What's the biggest tourist rip-off that you have ever experienced?

Author: garyt22

Date: 09/19/2004, 10:56 pm

Message: Just wondering... we just paid $160 for our family of four to just "walk around" the Polynesian Cultural Center... seemed pretty steep for what we saw... anybody experience a similar rip-off on any of their travels? PS Please don't try to defend the PCC... i was there.

Author: Ryan

Date: 09/20/2004, 08:23 am

Message: With a volunteer organization here in NYC, I took a group of kids on the NBC studio tour a few years ago. It was expensive and about the only thing visually interesting was a short film on NBC. But, for what they charged it really was underwhelming.

The other was the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The home of the Singapore Sling now sells them premade in souvenier glasses.

Author: Jayne1973

Date: 09/20/2004, 09:01 am

Message: Meteor Crater, Arizona

Spent about $60 for our family to go stare at the big hole for a few minutes. We are intersted in that type of thing, but for us it was just an overpriced pit stop.

Author: DonnaD44

Date: 09/20/2004, 12:24 pm

Message: Disneyworld! Sorry fans, but I just loathe the place.

Author: Dreamer2

Date: 09/20/2004, 12:33 pm

Message: While I do love Disney World, we took our first trip to Calif last April and went to Calif Adventure at Disney Land. It was so crowded, I actually got on only 2 rides the entire day - even with FastPass and our family riding as "singles!" (Kids and Dad did a couple more, but I designated myself as the FastPass line-waiter.) Plus we had a pretty horrendous lunch at the Vineyard style restaurant. Pretty expensive day for a family of four, with very little "return on investment."

I'm also always amazed at the lines waiting to get into the "Witch House" in Salem, MA. It's a fine historic home, but really nothing to do with "witches" except that it was owned by one of the Judges of the trials. Very boring tour of antiques, more suited to historians than kids. None of that "living history" stuff the younger generation is accustomed to. The Witch Museum, however, does give a historic presentation with low-tech theatrics. I do enjoy that and the Hawthorne House of 7 Gables - for those of you heading to Salem next month!

Fodor's Forum on Biggest Tourist Rip-Offs

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New York Times on Travel Guidebooks

Posted by Chika On 1:16 PM 0 comments

Morning Sun

New York Times

August 22, 2004


A Guidebook for Every Taste


PLANNING a trip involves many difficult decisions, but near the top of my list is standing in a bookstore trying to choose from a daunting lineup of guidebooks, a purchase that brands the owner as much as an army duffel bag or a Louis Vuitton suitcase.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, the choice was simpler. Backpackers and budget travelers hit the road with Let's Go, Rough Guides or Lonely Planet. Those taking a break from a job or enjoying retirement packed Fodor's or Frommer's, less adventurous but good for nuts and bolts like museum hours and restaurant addresses. Art and culture connoisseurs carried a Blue Guide, and high fliers relied on Michelin Guides to steer them to Europe's notable hotels and chefs.

To some degree, those characterizations still hold true. But as the budget guides have broadened their focus to retain readers now older and earning a decent salary, and the mainstream guides have tried to become more hip, the lines have blurred. Plus, established publishers have started new books aimed at a wider range of travelers taking different types of trips, and there are the niche guidebooks to consider: titles for hikers, bikers, women, families, gay travelers and people who won't leave home without their pets.

With all these choices, it may be time to branch out from a favorite series and experiment.

Publishers scaled back new projects in response to a decline in travel after 2001, but with Americans again packing their bags, travelers can expect to see more titles. One trend that's catching on, partly in response to post-Sept. 11 travel patterns, are mini-guides designed for short trips to a single city.

Hitting Highlights, in Color

The British publisher Dorling Kindersley started its Top 10 series in 2001, shorter versions of its DK Eyewitness Guides, which are known for glossy pages and color photographs. Now available for 40 cities, in the United States and abroad, the Top 10 books (about $10) choose 10 attractions as the best to see or do, plus give additional lists like the top 10 Belgian beers in the Brussels book.

Fodor's introduced a similar "See It" series this spring, now available for 12 cities. The See It guides, which start at $22.95, are nearly 400 pages, compared with 150 to 200 pages for the Top 10 books, but Fodor's also sells a smaller City Pack guide ($11.95) to a city's top 25 sights, plus a foldout map. Both series feature lots of color and pictures.

Michael Spring, publisher of Frommer's Travel Guides, said that although color guidebooks were more difficult to update frequently, Frommer's also planned to add more photos and color to its books. He said Frommer's and other publishers were also moving toward more lists highlighting what travelers shouldn't miss. A chapter at the beginning of most Frommer's guidebooks showcases the "best of" a destination. For example, Frommer's Italy 2005 guide ($22.99) offers its take on the best museums, ruins, cathedrals, restaurants and romantic getaways, like a visit to the hilltop town of Todi, south of Florence.

"What people want is information that will take them where their neighbors haven't been," he said. The Frommer's Portable Guides are among the most compact available; I bought one for $10.99 for Rio de Janeiro last year and found it covered the basics I needed for a three-day visit.

Lonely Planet has also tried to broaden its line to reach a wider audience, in part by introducing a shorter "Best of " series of city pocket guides ($11.99 to $14.99) and another "Road Trip" series ($10) focused on weekend road trips, which complement its core lineup of country and regional guides, and its "On a Shoestring" series ($23.99 to $33.99), still popular with the backpacker set. "Historically, Lonely Planet had been primarily about long-haul travel," said Robin Goldberg, vice president for marketing and business development for Lonely Planet Publications. "But that's typically not a traveler when they're in their 30's in the middle of their career and have a week to travel."

Ms. Goldberg said Lonely Planet was adding more color, as well as insights from insiders. "I think people are looking for ways to pull out what they want quickly," she said.

Not to miss the boat, the Rough Guides introduced a new Directions pocket series ($10.99) in June, with more color and photos than its other guidebooks. It, too, is designed for shorter trips. Geoff Colquitt, the company's director of marketing for North America, said the smaller guides still have a writing style "on the edgy side."

Sorting the Choices

So which guidebook should you choose? One guide definitely does not fit all: paper quality, the book's weight, the writing style, the size of the type, the number of photos, the quality of the maps and even page layout are all personal preferences - which often vary depending on the trip's length, the destination and who else is traveling.

"Customers always ask, 'What's the best book?' " said Lee Azus, owner of Get Lost Travel Books, a travel bookstore in San Francisco. "And I say: 'Who are you? What do you like to do?' "

For example, Mr. Azus said that if someone asks what's a good guidebook for Cuba, he steers them toward the Moon Handbooks, another series aimed at more adventurous travelers. Moon specializes in the Americas and Asia. I just bought Moon's Alaska guidebook ($19.95) - my first foray into the series - and found it had a good mix of history, opinion, and nuts and bolts listings.

In a similar genre, Mr. Azus said he took a Footprint Guide on a trip to Laos, and though he likes Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, he said he was glad he had the Footprint Guide ($19.95) because the listings aren't as well known. Otherwise, he recommended looking at a place you know well and comparing different series' entries for that destination; if one book recommends a restaurant you know is mediocre, it's likely the series doesn't match your tastes.

Also, look at the copyright date on any book you're considering; newer is definitely better.

David Garber, travel buyer for Barnes & Noble, said that among the series selling well at Barnes & Noble are the Rick Steves guides, which focus on Europe. "He tries to give you the best value for your budget, and his books are very opinionated," Mr. Garber said. Lonely Planet still seems to be "the guidebook of choice for solo travelers," he said, though the Moon Handbooks are selling well for domestic travel, while Frommer's and Fodor's "are still pretty big as far as mainstream guidebooks are concerned." The DK Eyewitness Guides are also popular with Barnes & Noble customers, in part for their photos and cultural information.

There are dozens of other series; the ones mentioned here barely scratch the surface. Get Lost Travel Books has helpful descriptions of more than 25 series at www.getlost

My advice: don't be a slave to the same series you've always bought - or to what the book recommends. Sometimes, the best restaurants, cafes or hotels are the ones you stumble across on a side street. So let serendipity - and your own judgment - be your primary guide.

New York Times on Travel Guidebooks

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Are Bloggers Really Journalists?

Posted by Chika On 11:50 AM 0 comments

Laughing Squid

Are Bloggers Really Journalists?

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Post from Travel Guidebook Writers

Posted by Chika On 1:15 PM 0 comments
Good morning fellow travel writers:

I'm going to delete all the personal references below, but this is a very important subject for writers - fiction, non-fiction, travel, etc. Everyone who is qualified should go to the excellent website operated by Tom Brosnahan, and join in this discusion.



Re: Google copies "Inside the Book"

Eddie xxx

Oct 07, 2004 07:11 PDT

On 7 Oct 2004 at 13:17, "Tom" wrote:

From what I read, Google allows the author to stipulate how much of a book may be read by one user in a 30-day period, from 20% to 100%. Google has no real way to identify unique users. If you clear your Google cookies, and reconnect to a dial-up connectiion so as to get another IP address, you appear to Google as a new user.

Remember, Rough Guides said that sales of its guides increased after it put the full text online. Guidebooks are different, I know, but it's an interesting fact to bear in mind.) Sales of print books may increase, but what about sales of e-books? If Google and Amazon give away the e-books, you won't sell many e-books.

Remember: the person who sells the book makes a LOT more money per-copy than the person who writes the book. With e-books, that shouldn't be true. Here's what I said in my blog:

Google joins Amazon in e-book plagiarism

A year ago this month, I noted reports that was planning to emulate's copyright-infringing scheme for online distribution of unauthorized bootleg images of the pages of books to which it doesn't own the copyright or electronic rights. In the intervening year, bootleg e-books assembled from page

images obtained from have already started showing up on Kazaa and Internet Relay Chat (IRC). (For more on all of this, see the Writing and Publishing section of this blog.)

Today, launched a beta version of its e-book (page image) Web site. It looks like Google's page image distribution system will be virtually identical to that of Google claims broadly, that, "To further protect your book content, printing and image copying functions are disabled on all Google Print

content pages." But the fine print reveals that they will only _try_ to disable "right-click" cut, copy and paste, and printing (presumably through the same sort of buggy, platform-specific javascript that fails to protect page images on In practice, it is technically impossible for any Web server function to prevent the saving or printing by a Web client of any image that client can display.

The question that remains unanswered is whether in practice will -- as has done -- allow publishers to "authorize" inclusion of books in this e-book giveaway program without the authors' consent, or when the publisher does not own the unencumbered rights to e-book distribution.'s scheme isn't necessarily illegal, if they actually obtain permisison from the holders of the rights to electronic distribution. But in practice, it appears likely that Google will rely on publishers' self-reprersentations as to their ownership of electronic rights, rather than -- as they could and should -- requiring anyone not identified in the work itself as the copyright holder, and who wants the work included in's e-book distribution program, to present evidence of a grant of electronic distribution rights by the copyright holder. will also pay publishers a share of the revenue for ads displayed along with book page images. In the absence of an explicit grant of electronic rights in the print book publication contract, those revenues belong to authors (although

they are likely to be small compared to the potential e-book revenue that authors will lose through the giveaway of page images). It will be interesting to see how publishers account for these ad revenues, and whether they pay authors the full

share (in many cases, 100%) to which they are entitled.

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Travel Writing Link

Posted by Chika On 10:37 AM 0 comments
I just discovered a great link about the business of travel writing:

Travel Writing Link

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