Travelers rejoice. Your suitcase might be getting a bit lighter.
This week, Frommer's launched its best-selling travel guides as Inkling digital books for the iPad. If you're already familiar with printed Frommer's guides, you'll recognize some of the formats that these books use, such as one to three star ratings of places to visit and highlights of child-friendly attractions. But the Inkling platform takes these features and develops them further, adding interactive features to enrich your travel experience.
The guides are loaded onto your iPad so you don't worry about expensive international data charges when you want to access the information. This means that you can use these guides even if you don't have an Internet connection.
Frommer's has started off with its seven best-selling Day by Day guides:
More destinations are expected this summer and fall. These guides have more than 3,000 high-resolution photos that make use of the new iPad's Retina display screen (read more about the new iPad here). They also have 650 interactive maps with layers to help you navigate and get information about each site.
I recently spoke with Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis about the launch of Frommer's Day by Day guides as Inkling books.
Using the Guides
During a demo of the guides, MacInnis showed me how a family can plan a trip using the guide's suggested itineraries based on the duration of the trip or other criteria, such as visits to picturesque villages, palaces, museums, cathedrals or nature. For example, you could plan a trip based on a one-week stay in Provence or a food and wine tour in the same area.
The guides are also convenient to use when you visit a particular attraction. Using the Great Britain guide, MacInnis took me on a virtual tour of Canterbury Cathedral, showing me the Site Guide, complete with a diagram, information and photos.
He compared the experience to renting an audio tour device, except the Frommer's experience is visual and interactive.
A unique feature of the guides is that they are also available on the iPhone and iPod Touch. You can plan your trip while sitting on your sofa using your iPad and then use the guide on your iPhone when you're out and about. Inkling will sync your notes and highlights between your devices. No need to lug a heavy guide book or your iPad with you while on a tour. Even better, you only need to buy the guides once and they will work on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
"It's a first for an Inkling book on an iPhone, so we're setting a new standard here," MacInnis said.
The notes feature is handy, not just because they help you keep track of your thoughts but also because they include a social media feature. You can make your notes public and share them with others. You can also see others' public notes for opinions and current information.
Public notes can alert you to changes at an attraction, for example if a site is under construction or temporarily closed, or if a new exhibit is worth seeing. If you discover a fantastic restaurant, make a note so other users can savor the cuisine.
MacInnis points out, "It's not crowd-sourced content. It's professionally curated content with crowd-sourced comments."
You can also keep your notes private if you don't want others to see them, such as "Let's try this pub Tuesday after we have tea with the Queen." Or not.
The maps within Frommer's guides provide a much different experience than paper maps. These maps offer different layers of information: plain maps for when you need navigation, or informational maps when you want to see where to stay or dine or want to read about an attraction.
A very handy feature of these guides is that they give you the weather conditions and forecast for the area. When you open the title page for an area, the weather report will automatically load – even if you're not connected to the Internet. How it works is this: The guides download weather information when you're online so you access it later.
Within the guides are 300 to 400 links to websites for attractions, exhibits, currency converters, and more. When you're connected to the Internet, you can use the links to visit websites directly and save clips to your Notes, which you can later view offline. The guides also have internal links so you can move quickly and easily around the content.
Phone numbers are linked in the guides so you can use your iPhone to place a call directly. (Be aware of international charges if you're outside your home country).
Books about non-English speaking country include a language guide to help you understand the local language without having to bring a separate book. The France guide has recorded voices of native French speakers so you can hear the pronunciation of the words as well.
"You can actually study the language with your headphones on during the plane ride over to France," MacInnis explained.
If you're planning a getaway to a Frommer's guide destination or you are looking for inspiration for your next trip, check out these interactive books for a great resource for your vacation. Just be sure to pack a travel adapter for your charge cords. A dead device is as good as no device.
The Frommer's Day by Day guides cost between $9.99 and $14.99 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch in the iTunes App Store. There are no plans at this time to offer this for the Android platform.