Press Release Summary: The travel business was changed tremendously by the Internet and the travel guide business will follow the same path. WritingTravellers is a new initiative that combines techniques and technologies from the so called Web 2.0 to support the whole process of making guidebooks: from writing them to printing and distributing them. A new phenomena is born: user generated guides. NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch quality newspaper, already mentioned WritingTravellers as one of the early examples of user generated books.
Press Release Body: Rediscovering
The focus is on generating content for the guides by the users themselves, but the open guidebooks project wants to do more than just change the way guidebooks are produced. It wants to change the way travellers discover the world. It uses the experience of a wide range of people to generate guidebooks that will help travellers "rediscover the planet" as its slogan says. Unlike traditional guidebooks the guides are not based on the personal opinion of a small group of guidebook writers that keep on writing about the same places in the same way. As the project\'s website puts it: \"The problem with travel guidebooks right now, is that most of the time we all end up with the same guide as millions of other people. As a result everybody visits the same places, that become a lot less idyllic and don\'t resemble the guide\'s description any longer\".
Aspiring guidebook writers
WritingTravellers offers anyone a chance to be the co-author of parts of a travel guide that actually gets printed. The wiki always shows who wrote an item, and who edited the item. In printed versions of guidebooks the names of the co-authors are clearly mentioned in the book. Authors get full credits for what they wrote.
The project has been on-line since August 2007. On the website www.writingtravellers.com writers can add and edit items about destinations all over the world, like in a wiki. They can add photo's too. The community of writers has been growing steadily since the launch of the website. At the moment several hundreds of writing travellers are working on the content for the first travel guides. Amsterdam and New Delhi are already at an advanced stage.
The members of the international network of writers voluntarily describe their favourite destinations. Not only do they write about places they travelled to, they also write about the places they live in. The writers keep contact with each other through e-mail, the WritingTravellers website and through networking sites like Facebook or photo sites like Flickr. They help each other to improve the content of the guides. Everyone that likes to share his or her experiences, or likes to practice travel writing, can join in.
Quotes by community members: * Christopher Rawlins (UK), now living in Taiwan: "I like it for purely selfish reasons. I want to earn money from travel writing and this gives me an excellent medium to develop. It has been a real eye opener - there\'s so much to think about places, especially helping other people discover them." * Sarah Jamieson (New-Zealand), currently living in Amsterdam and working for an English radio station: "It\'s a great website to peruse and be safe in the knowledge that if someone took the time to type it out for you to read - then it must be good!" * Vishaka Jayakumar (India): "I have the freedom to contribute to the extent I want and whenever I find the time." * Mariana Remesikova (Slovakia), mathematician: "It provides an opportunity to share my travelling experience with other people. The greatest thing is that it offers authentic information, real experiences and things that you maybe don\'t find in other tourist guides." * Ferdinand Harmsen (Netherlands), now living in India, founder of WritingTravellers: "While travelling, it often occurs to me that my travel guide is way too heavy. I only used a small part of the guide, the rest was just excess weight. Sometimes I was be looking for a restaurant that was described in the guide as a 'must visit', but when I would finally find the address, the restaurant was closed for a year already. I intend to make travel guides with only the content you're actually are going to use and is up-to-date\".
To recruit more writing talent WritingTravellers started a partnership with Hostelling International, the world wide federation of more than 4,500 hostels. All hostels have been added to the WritingTravellers database. They are popular meeting points for young travellers and a place where they exchange experiences and travel tips. \"At those hot-spots of highly up-to-date and valuable travel information we want WritingTravellers to be present. We want it to be used to store and exchange knowledge about new interesting places.\" Says Bart van Slobbe, one of the founders.
Build your own guidebook
Since the end of June 2008 the project\'s website offers the option to build a personal guide. Each of those printed guides will be tailor-made for the one who ordered it. The guides will be printed at the moment they are ordered and therefore they will be as up to date as possible. A few days later a brand new travel guide will be delivered by mail.
The project is still in beta and therefore the result of the building process is at the moment still a printable pdf-file. It contains the contents of a complete guidebook, including table of content, cross references and indices for keywords and writers. As soon as the content for the first destinations will be complete enough, it will be possible to order guidebooks that will be printed on demand.
To build a guide, one uses a wizard. It asks for the destinations you want to visit, what means of transportation you will use, what your budget is and what sort of activities you are interested in. Based on this profile, you can make the guidebook as elaborate as you want. You do not have to carry a big heavy guidebook any more, just take the information that you need!
WritingTravellers is a non-profit foundation based in Amsterdam. It\'s aim is to make the guidebook information in its database freely available through its wiki. The foundation supports the community that gathers and maintains the content and takes care of continuous improvement of the community, the database and the wiki. ###