DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Hey Siri, can I take a shower on the Trans-Siberian Railway?
(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)
SIRI: I found 15 places matching the trend, southern of Denmark. They're pretty far from Railroad, Pennsylvania.
GREENE: Mm-hmm. OK. Not that accurate, Siri. Well, you know, what might work better than an iPhone? A travel guidebook, the good, old-fashioned kind. Let me see, I'm looking to see what it says in "Trans-Siberian Railway Guide" from Lonely Planet - There are no showers on passenger carriages except for a few top-quality trains.
All right. Good advice, Lonely Planet. But travel books, they're actually becoming harder to find. In fact, Google, which bought Frommer's last year, plans to stop printing Frommer's guidebooks, forcing everything online. And to chat about this, we called up Ina Fried, senior editor at AllThingsD, and also Hanya Yanagihara, editor-at-large at Conde Nast Traveler.
Ina, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us.
INA FRIED: Thanks for having me.
GREENE: And Hanya, Thanks for coming on to talk about this.
HANYA YANAGIHARA: Thanks so much.
GREENE: Ina, let me start with you. Do you ever miss the book if you don't bring one along and feel like you wish you had that book you could doggie or markings with the pen?
FRIED: I do. And even though I'm the kind of person that never leaves the house without a mobile device, I actually bring the travel books sometimes. There's a couple things that they do that to really an app just doesn't replace. One is just the narrative form. I don't tend to read a book on my phone. But what I really want when I'm going on the plane or planning a trip is to get a good overview, and the guidebook apps are really good for letting me know what's around me. But what they're not very good at this sort of giving you a feel - well, I have three days in the city, what do I want to do? Let me look at all the options. That's one time. The other time is if I'm in Hawaii, I really want to put my devices away.
GREENE: You sure do.
FRIED: So there's times I make a conscious choice and say you know what? I couldn't get this in a much more portable format on my phone but I'd rather leave that phone turned off, and the guidebook never has my work email. So sometimes I just want that paper book.
GREENE: Yeah. I think we can all relate to that.
Hanya, let me bring you into the conversation here.
GREENE: You just got back from quite a trip, as I understand. Where were you?
YANAGIHARA: I did. I took a 51 day trip through Asia; 12 countries and 26 cities. I traveled for 51 days. So, it was everywhere from Sri Lanka and that all the way to Japan, where we ended it.
GREENE: How much for using travel books? How much were you using, you know, some kind of mobile device?
YANAGIHARA: Well, very little. You know, I don't have a cell phone and I do the very old-school way of researching articles, printing them out, taking them with me as I go and throwing things away, leaving things as I go. I mean, I agree with Ina, though. There's something nice and intimate about having a book. You know that someone's actually gone on this journey. You know that someone has actually researched and reported all these things. You can see and hear their tone in what they chosen to include and what they haven't. And it does feel like you are being led by someone, as opposed to just being led by the wisdom of the crowds.
FRIED: And I'm really jealous of Hanya, because I'm the person at the opposite end of the spectrum, going through the airport, you know, unloading 17 digital devices and I miss having that book. You know, my boss wants me to travel now only on flights that have Wi-Fi. My last bastion of technology-free time was that plane.
FRIED: And now I can be checking work email on the plane, which is a wonderfully terrible invention. So I do think that it really is incumbent on the traveler to sort of think about what sort of experience there setting up for themselves.
GREENE: Is there something sad here, that one of the big reasons we're saying we don't want to necessarily rely on mobile devices for travel is because it'll entice us to much to look at our work email?
YANAGIHARA: I mean, I think that's definitely part of it. But I think the other really sad part about this is that there something that seems sort of willfully anachronistic about using a guidebook when you could be getting the most up-to-date information about what's hot and what's new, and what's now online. And frankly, it's exhausting. You know, I live in Soho in lower New York, there's tons and tons of tourists right outside my door step, obviously. Most of them are European and all of them have guidebooks. I never see anyone looking at a phone. And I often wonder if they just A, aren't as insecure about finding out what's new and what's next because they have a longer view of history, or whether the newness of everything just doesn't have as much currency for them. So I think that even by opting into using a guidebook, there's something that says that you're opting out of what's coming up next and people really are very, very scared about falling behind.
GREENE: You're taking more of the long view of a place.
GREENE: Hanya, thanks so much for talking to us.
YANAGIHARA: Thanks, David.
GREENE: And Ina, thanks so much for joining us, as always.
FRIED: Thanks for having me.
GREENE: That's Hanya Yanagihara, editor-at-large at Conde Nast Traveler and Ina Fried, senior editor at AllThingsD. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.