Wikitravel founder Evan Prodromou (who I wrote about many moons ago) has officially launched Wikitravel Press, which provides paper versions of the wiki travel guides. They launch with two books — Chicago and Singapore — and Evan says he’s working on a book for Montreal.
Call me Establishment, but there’s something to be said for the publishing process — including research, fact-finding, and yes, reputation — especially when you get yourself in places where you don’t know the language and you are dependent on the accuracy of your documentation. (And that’s to say nothing of editing, coherent style, content specialization, etc.) Publishers, writers and researchers aren’t perfect, but to suggest that they’re “hired hacks” is unfair.
I’ve used Wikitravel a couple of times for ideas on my travels, which I’ll generally jot down on loose leaf (along side other facts from websites of rail operators, local transit authorities, other travel sites, etc.). Two or three sheets like this will end up folded and inserted under the front cover of my Lonely Planet.
I’d be willing to contribute to Wikitravel in a fundraising exercise like Wikipedia does, but I still think I’d rather kill a tree via my trusted source in travel guides.
Off topic, but: What I also find interesting about the press release is that the dateline gives “Montreal”, but the media contact’s number is in Singapore. I suppose their marketing is a global collaboration, as well?
To clarify, Wikitravel Press does not deny the value of the publishing process–we employ it. I’m one of the two editors for the Chicago guide, and my colleague and I have done our best to ensure that everything in the book is factual, polished, and coherent in style (in addition to writing most of the content before ever being hired). Research, fact-finding, and long hours of proofreading and copyediting is what we’ve been paid for; we’ve both been all over the city (and the telephone book) talking with local business owners, taking photos, and double checking our facts. The “peer review” from anyone who cares to visit the website and make an edit or two only serves to make the guide even more up-to-date and likely more accurate than traditional guidebooks. Please do take a moment to browse the Chicago or the Singapore content online–it’s all out there for free, and I think anyone would be impressed by both the writing and the depth and breadth of information!
To answer your other question, Wikitravel Press is a Quebec company, where one of the two founders lives, although the other founder is from Singapore.
Thanks for your interest!