Do Lonely Planet Layoffs Signal the Death of Guidebooks?
Maybe Jeff Bezos wants to buy Lonely Planet, too? This spring, BCC Worldwide sold the Melbourne-based guidebook company to a Tennessee media company for a reported loss of $130 million. Now comes news that Lonely Planet is planning to lay off some 70 to 80 employees at its Australian headquarters, a development that has sparked eulogies across the digital sphere (perhaps ironic, given the Internet’s role in guidebooks’ demise). The publisher has had to deny rumors that its printed guides are on their way out.
This is only the latest twist in what has been a decidedly rollercoaster couple of years for guidebooks. After Google bought, for $23 million, the stalwart Frommer’s brand of travel guides and then bled the books for content (see the new and improved Google Maps), it sold the brand back to Arthur Frommer himself in April. The 83-year-old recently announced that he would begin publishing guides again in October, introducing a short EasyGuides series aimed at attention-deprived audiences. As reported in the New York Times, he hopes to have roughly 80 titles published by the end of 2014. To call this plan ambitious is an understatement.
We’re rooting for him and Lonely Planet. Sitting at home, it’s easy to dismiss printed guides as relics from a past era of travel. But, as T+L editor-at-large Peter Jon Lindberg recently wrote in a nuanced essay for our August issue, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, they are both compass and companion—essentials, even in this digital age.