Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
24 September 2008

I was intrigued when I heard about Offbeat Guides – a service that lets you “build your own travel guide”. A fresh, tech-enabled stab at tourist information. My vision was getting the best info from a variety of existing travel guides mashed up with info pulled from the net, having it available on my iPod Touch or any other PDA or phone. Turns out
a) The service is paper or PDF only (at least to begin with).
b) None of the existing commercial guidebooks’ text is available. Instead , “we pull our information from dozens of locations and we’re continuing to add more. Sources include Wikitravel, Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, AccuWeather, Google Maps, and Eventful”. And the results are predictably rather weak and dull (at least when I made myself a guide to London). I suppose there may be a market willing to pay $10 for a PDF that brings together web information that would take an hour or so of of copying and pasting to compile, but I was hoping for something a little more attractive. If it were free and ad supported I might consider it…

PS The service is in closed beta at the moment – you can request a code to try it though and once you are in they’re giving people two free guides to try out – so don’t take my word for it!


  1. David,

    Thanks for your honest feedback on Offbeat Guides! As you noted, we’re still in private beta, and working hard on improving the quality of both the books (printed and PDF) and the guides themselves. One of our biggest challenges is to make guides for the largest cities in the world really compelling, and we’ve hired a team of curators and writers to help us do just that.

    Expect that we’lll be making some changes to the London guide based on your excellent feedback. This is exactly why we’re still in private beta, and haven’t opened everything to the world just yet. 🙂 I expect that even when we do, we’ll be rapidly learning and fixing our information as we learn more from local experts like yourself.

    Thanks again! And please give us another try for your next trip. You may find that the events section alone is worth the price, too…


    Comment by David Sifry — 24 September 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  2. You should check out:


    It’s an offline continent-by-continent download of wikitravel in plucker .pdb format.

    Comment by tripsteps — 2 July 2009 @ 4:48 am

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