Buying Guidebooks, One Chapter At A Time

As I was preparing for a trip to Turkey this past spring, I did something I really hate to do. I desecrated a book.

I was planning to visit Istanbul and the Cappadocia region of Turkey, so I bought a guidebook to Istanbul and another that covered all of Turkey. I was traveling light, and looking for any way to cut down the bulk and weight of my luggage, so I dismembered the Turkey guidebook, removed the chapter on Cappadocia, clipped those pages together and brought them with me.

It pained me to do it. I was taught from an early age to treat books well — never leave them face down, never write in them, never fold the pages over. But desperate times, desperate measures and all that.

Now Lonely Planet has come up with an alternative to my brutal guidebook dismemberment. It’s selling downloads of single chapters from many of its guidebooks.

I tested this new Pick & Mix service by downloading the chapter on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the guide “Hawaii: The Big Island.” The full guide costs $17 on the Web site. The chapter cost $4.

I already have a guidebook to the Big Island, “Hawaii: the Big Island Revealed.” But I thought another view of the park wouldn’t hurt.

After I paid for the Lonely Planet chapter, I was permitted to download it in PDF format. Then I printed it and stapled it together. It worked very well.

My only gripe is that the pages are arranged in such a way that you can’t fold them so that they can be read in a book form.  It would be nice to have the option to download a version that can be folded and read like a book instead of as individual sheets of paper.

Most of the chapters cost between $2 and $5, but I saw one very long one that went for $8. Lonely Planet offers a discount for three chapters or more.

I haven’t seen any other guidebook publishers offered this option yet. It will be interesting to see how Lonely Planet fares with this, and whether other publishers follow suit.


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