Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
So if you’re a travel buff or a Google buff or a Frommer’s guide aficionado or read the news, you’ve probably seen that Google recently purchased a travel publishing line from John Wiley & Sons, which includes the famous Frommer’s guides.
Full disclosure here: I work for Wiley. But this situation interests me for more reasons than “oh hey, I know them.”
Other full disclosure here: my eyesight is a little rose-tinted when I look at Google. One of my friends got her first job with Google, and loved everything about it; by transference, I’m still a little awed by them. (They have free lunch. Every day. And you can take your dog in to work. I don’t have a dog, but that’s still cool.)
What I’m curious about is how Google is going to use Frommer’s—I see Google as a purely informational company, and most certainly not a publishing company. In fact, once someone asked me what I thought would happen if Google tried to enter the publishing scene (much as Amazon did recently). I will admit that I sort of laughed in his face. “Google?” I said. “Google won’t become a publisher. They don’t care about publishing.”
And I stand by that. Google doesn’t care about publishing. In fact, it’s not too fussed about content in general. Because Google—unlike Amazon, which is in the business of creating incredibly loyal, paying customers, and unlike Apple, which is in the business of making the perfect computer experience—is in the business of transmitting information. Google is the ultimate matchmaker, putting people together with the information they’re looking for. It’s the 411 of the Internet age.
Case in point, for me, is YouTube. Somehow I must have missed (or just forgot about) Google’s 2006 acquisition of everyone’s favorite time-waster/music video provider. But I think it’s pretty cool that there is a “purchase this song” button beneath every music video I watch. And not just “buy from Google”—you have the option to buy from Google, Amazon, or Apple. (Okay, those mandatory commercials before watching a video? I admit, I’m not crazy about those. Or, necessarily, sponsored search results. But I am glad that YouTube is still free to use—and if those are the ways they need to monetize the site so I can still use it at no charge, I can live with that.)
And considering how much I—and everyone I know—use Google maps, it seems like Frommer’s guides are the next logical step to enrich a tool that I do, actually, use to plan vacations and day trips. Let’s say Google does use Frommer’s guides to enhance Google map capabilities. To me, that’s… like… being a Jetson. Living in the future. Not only does your map tell you how to get somewhere, but it also tells you what to do there. Talk about cutting out the (travel agent) middleman.
Then again, perhaps Google is planning to use the Frommer’s guides in ways I haven’t thought of yet. What do you think the future holds for the Frommer’s franchise? How will Google use this acquisition to enrich its offerings to its information-seeking consumers? And, most importantly, will this make the book aspect of Frommer’s guides fall by the wayside?