Have Kindle, Will Travel — And Stay Up-To-Date Thanks To Offbeat Guides

3476985377_9ce509d49aI used to think the Kindle was stupid. Then I bought one and realized I was wrong. It’s still way too expensive, but it’s great at what it does. And what it does keeps on expanding. Now, it takes a step into the up-to-date travel guide market, with a partnership with the customizable travel guide service, Offbeat Guides.

Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to find 500 of the company’s newest guides in the Kindle store at prices ranging from $3.99 for smaller cities to $7.99 for larger ones. Here’s why these are great. Just like the Offbeat Guides regular guidebook products, its Kindle-ready guidebooks are way more up-to-date than traditional guidebooks. While there have been some guidebooks available on the Kindle in the past, most are only updated once a year. Offbeat Guides are updated every month.

This means they can include information such as real-time events for specific cities, like concerts or festivals. It also means the guides can have a Kindle menu option to find out something going on in the city you are visiting that night. For tourists who don’t know anyone in a particular city, that’s a great feature.

There are a couple downsides. Naturally, because the Kindle only handles grayscale images, you won’t get the full color pictures you usually find in other tour guides. And because the Kindle’s screen isn’t ideal for displaying maps, tailored, local maps that are a part of Offbeat Guides regular guides aren’t included here.

But, at 10.2 ounces (for the latest version), the Kindle is likely lighter than regular tour guides. And, if you’re planning a multiple city trip, you can obviously load up a bunch of these guides on one Kindle. One thing that particularly excites me is the fact that you can also view these on your iPhone if you go somewhere and don’t feel like carrying around a Kindle. Because the Kindle app on the iPhone stays in sync with the Kindle content, you can bookmark pages and look at them later on your phone.

Offbeat Guides has been working on these Kindle-tailored guides for 6 months now, CEO Dave Sifry tells me. He also notes that there are 5 times as many cities available as compared to other guides. Right now, if you plan on traveling to a city often and want the most up-to-date guide, you’ll have to buy a new one each time. But Sifry says they will explore the possibility of having subscriptions for certain cities if customers demand that. Such a feature may even be useful to locals of a particular city to know what is going on. But the focus right now remains on leisure and business travelers, he says.

Find a full list of the Offbeat Guides Kindle options here.

Table of Contents of the May 2009 San Francisco Offbeat Guide on 3477796562_c9ed04f47d