Lonely Planet Getting it All Wrong

Today I decided I’d like to buy a Lonely Planet travel guide. I’m looking at the Japan guide. At Amazon I can get it for $19.13. I have an iPod Touch now so I though, maybe since they have all those snazy phrase books as apps for the iPhone / Touch they have PDF’s of their books. They do, but they dropped the ball completely. The PDF’s cost the same as the suggested retail price of the physical book— almost $30. Considering how much cheaper it is to sell an electronic file it should be at least as cheap as the physical book on Amazon. Or even better, those buying the book should get free PDF’s. I’d sign up for either of those, but who in their right mind would pay more for something that should cost much much less?

As a result I’m going to look elsewhere. I may end up buying the paperback, but I’ll freeze in hell before being squeezed for some jacked up PDF.

It is also worth noting that the aforementioned iTunes Apps have received somewhat poor reviews. To me this is a signal that Lonely Planet is not ready to make the next digital leap and that a smarter more savvy company has a golden opportunity laying in front of them.


5 thoughts on “Lonely Planet Getting it All Wrong

  1. Hey there,

    I understand where you’re coming from (surely everything should be free, these days?) … but …
    we introduced the Pick & Mix chapter PDFs to meet a particular set of traveller needs: customisation, portability and search. On those counts they represent pretty good value, considering that the cost of on-the-ground research, design and layout are unchanged, whether we sell a book or a PDF. They might not be as cheap as a track from i-tunes, but they’re still likely to save you more money and trouble than they cost.

    A traveller can still save money buying PDFs versus buying a guidebook or books, if they just purchase the chapters they most want to use. Let’s say that you were spending time in Tokyo, Central Honshu, then going on to one region of Vietnam. You could combine the chapters you want for significantly less than the price of even one guidebook, with all the benefits of not lugging around heavy or bulky books.

    I’ll pass your Pick & Mix suggestions on to the right people here (eg PDFs available to travellers who have purchased the book, which I agree would be good). We might not be able to make everyone’s wishes come true, but we like to understand what travellers want, why they’re asking for it – and do as much as we can.

    In the meantime you could check out the “what’s around me” funtion on m.lonelyplanet.com Once you enter your location, you can browse a set of Lonely Planet POIs and listings on a google map.

    We’ve had mostly positive feedback about the iphone phrasebooks, which are still quite new and subject to continued development and releases. We’re working to resolve an issue where the speakerphone volume sets to a default middle volume (though it is adustable if you use headphones). If you’ve got particular concerns, I’d be happy to pass them on, or you can post them for our attention here: http://getsatisfaction.com/lonelyplanet


    Traveller Feedback / Lonely Planet

  2. maly says:

    holy moly, you elicited a corporate response. Scary. And Malcolm still didn’t convince me. The PDF should still be as cheap as the book, if not cheaper.

  3. Hi Jon,

    Like I said, I agree and think free PDFs for people who have bought a guide would be good. I’ll get it onto the right customer wish list and we’ll see whether and how we can implement it. At the moment, travellers typically buy a book *or* a set of PDFs, rather than wanting both. You’re probably in the ‘early adopter’ group of people who will want both, but like you, I see it coming.

    In the spirit of looking out for the best interest of our customers (and therefore ourselves), here’s an offer:
    I’ll arrange a set of Japan PDFs for you, if you email me a receipt or some proof when (if!) you purchase our guide.

    You should shop around – it’s your perogative. If you find a better alternative, it’d be great to hear about it. There’s nothing like competition to make us raise our game.

    Regarding the iPhone phrasebooks – are you looking at the USA iTunes app store? There are different ratings and different comments from users of other iPhone stores internationally. Not sure why Apple do it that way – I can understand it for music, where tastes are different from one country to the next, but not for iPhone apps. Anyway, we keep our app development team aware of the customer comments and they release updated versions of the applications as and when they fix things. Once you’ve bought the app once, you automatically get the latest version free, when your applications synchronise. It’s worth knowing that, ‘cos of course the comments and ratings could pre-date a version release. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, but at least you know that we have a mechanism for listening to problems, taking them on and resolving them.



  4. funk says:

    Here’s another one who doesn’t really understand why a pdf version should cost more than the paper version.

    Malcolm, you say that travellers can save with pdfs by buying only the chapters they need. This is of course true if you know where you are going.

    However, consider my case: I am planning a long (at least six months) trip from Finland to Japan via Central Asia, India, Nepal, South-East Asia, China and so on. And the return trip goes through Korea, Mongolia and Russia. I have no idea where exactly I’m going, so I need the whole books for planning.

    Currently, I can get the paper versions cheaper than the PDFs, but obviously carrying some 5kg of guide books for months is not an option.

    For me (too) the ideal solution would be to buy the paper versions for planning and then load the PDFs to my ultra light laptop that I’m taking with me to the trip.

    The second best thing would be the whole books in PDFs, because it’s always possible to print what I need. But I don’t want to pay more for something that costs less for the publisher.

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