Guidebooks in PDF format have been around for awhile and I’ve never found them much of use. I have a couple of guides from various publishers stuck in a folder somewhere on my computer that I never go into. But now Lonely Planet has announced that they have Pick & Mix chapters availiable for download from their website.
This means you can download just a chapter or two of what you really need on your trip and you don’t have to lug your guidebook around. So, if you are just heading to San Jose, Costa Rica on a business trip you can print out the few background pages on where to eat, a map, and a few side trips you can do in your off time. There are a few walking guides availiable too, so you can get the info you need for your trail and then keep the rest of the guidebook in storage and save a bit of space and weight.
They have started with their South and Central American guides, and added a few walking guides and phrasebooks too. The chapters rangefrom $2 to $4 and there are discounts when purchasing multiple chapters. You can try Pick & Mix for free by downloading the Planning chapter from each book, which includes the Getting Started, Snapshots and Itineraries sections. All Pick & Mix chapters are available in the Buy by Chapter section of the Lonely Planet online shop at shop.lonelyplanet.com.
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I think you will see a lot of publishers experimenting with new forms of guidebooks in the future. It is just the natural progression of technology. Pick & Mix is the first I’ve seen that can actually serve a purpose.
By the way, if you have an iPod you can just drop the chapters in it’s Notes folder, as if you’re using your iPod as an external hardrive, and then read the chapters from there.