I’ve traveled a bit in my time and I never go anywhere without a travel book, but sometimes I end up buying more than one because each travel book has its own strengths, and, of course, its own weaknesses. Lonely Planet, one of the better guidebook companies, is using digital technology to address those issues by allowing customers to create their own guidebooks.

Starting with its Latin America guidebooks, users can download free chapters and access others for a fee between $2 – $5. The idea is that if you are going to visit Belize and Guatemala, then you don’t need the chapters for Panama and Costa Rica. The cost for the individual chapters is based on the overall cost of the book, meaning that you aren’t getting charged more money to make your own copy.

13,000 chapter downloads

I think this is a genius idea and an innovative use of digital e-book technology. Since going live in July, there have been over 13,000 downloads of individual chapters of guidebooks.

This is another area in which music has led the way. You used to have to buy the entire album and now you can buy just one song at a time. Perhaps with the DRM being stripped away by music companies, print publishers will feel encouraged to follow suit.

Via Publishers’ Weekly.


  1. Wow!

    just a couple of days ago I argued that this is going to happen!
    Guide books are an excellent candidate for the pay-per-chapter model.
    I wonder how long until cooksbooks, reference books and encyclopedias (pay-per-article) will follow.

    It will also effect how books can be written by collaborative authoring.
    Each article or chapter can have a different author who can be paid by tracking the sale of the individual chapters.
    For example
    Drupal a popular CMS has a book module that can be set up so that users can only edit the “pages” that they created to begin with and only allow comments but not edit by others. – so it would be a bit different than a wiki-book. This way authors could take ownership of “pages” which could really be chapters or articles.

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