Who'll Guide You through New York? Frank Barrett Pits E-Books, the Internet and iPhone Apps against Tried and Tested Paper Guidebooks; Dog-Eared, Unsexy.Yet Still Good Old Books Beat All the Rest

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 11, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Who'll Guide You through New York? Frank Barrett Pits E-Books, the Internet and iPhone Apps against Tried and Tested Paper Guidebooks; Dog-Eared, Unsexy.Yet Still Good Old Books Beat All the Rest


Byline: Frank Barrett

Frank Sinatra sang about liking New York in June. How About You - a song on his 1956 album Songs For Swingin' Lovers - extols the pleasures of windowshopping on Fifth Avenue and enjoying a late supper at the Ritz.

New York is still perfect in June, Fifth Avenue continues to be a major shopping street but, sadly, the Ritz referred to in the song is no more. This was the original Ritz-Carlton which stood at the corner of 46th Street and Madison Avenue and the very place that gave us the word 'ritzy', the song Puttin' On The Ritz and Ritz crackers (the cracker-makers Nabisco said the name concisely con jured up 'wealth and glamour').

New York is forever changing. One year's must-see restaurant or music club may well sink as quickly as it has risen. Manhattan is crowded with ghosts of once-famous places: venues such as CBGB and the Fillmore and once-glittering nightclubs like the Copacabana have followed the Ritz into oblivion. The rapid fall of the once-iconic Ritz - it was actually pulled down a few years before the release of Sinatra's album - shows just how tricky it can be to keep up with the changes.

Visitors to the Big Apple need to have the most up-to-date information if they want to be sure of getting the most out of their stay. With the rise of the internet and, latterly, of e-books, the day of the perpetually updated guidebook must surely be at hand.

Given their lengthy research periods and inevitably elongated publishing schedules, printed guides risk being out of date from their first day of publication. Yet, as we shall see, there is no clear sign they actually are facing extinction any time soon.

To put guidebooks - and their internet kin - to the test, I embarked on a trip to the Big Apple. I took the Time Out city guide to New York loaded on to a Sony e-Reader (the e-Reader costs [euro]179 , the Time Out city-guide download costs [euro]15 ) while on to my iPhone I downloaded the Lonely Planet guide to New York City, price [euro]12.99 , and the DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 New York City is just 79c. What are the advantages of having the guides in digital form? Time Out claims that having the book on the e-Reader offers enhanced functionality including 'internal and external hyperlinks, notes, bookmark and zoom options', but I'm not sure these are functions you actually crave.

The main advantage of the electronic version of Time Out was being able to search for information, but this was hardly much dif ferent from flicking through the index of a book. Digital guides, whether on e-books or on mobile devices like the iPhone, will come into their own when, using the GPS facility, it can work out where you are and tell you the best things to see in the area or recommend the best places to eat (this already happens, for example, with the Trip Advisor Local Picks iPhone appli cation). The digital guide will then become an 'intelligent' companion full of relevant infor mation and compelling advice.

If you're worried about data charges, the ebook incurs no such costs, and neither does either of my iPhone apps after initial downloading.

TripAdvisor's Local Picks uses GPS, and does involve small amounts of data use.

Here is the result of my books versus digital search for the best of New York.

BEST OF NEW YORK FROM GUIDEBOOKS

BEST ART COLLECTION: Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metromuseum.org Best guide: DK Eyewitness Travel New York City

The book succinctly describes the museum's collection as 'the most comprehensive in the Western world', adding: 'The treasures of "the Met" include a vast collection of American art and more than 2,500 European paintings, including masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. There are also many Islamic exhibits, plus the greatest collection of Egyptian art outside Cairo.'

BEST FOR KIDS:

Museum of Natural History Best guide: The Mini Rough Guide To New York City An evergreen children's favourite, the guide singles out the fourth-floor dinosaur exhibit 'covering five spacious, well-lit and welldesigned halls, it is the largest collection in the world with more than 120 specimens on display'.

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Who'll Guide You through New York? Frank Barrett Pits E-Books, the Internet and iPhone Apps against Tried and Tested Paper Guidebooks; Dog-Eared, Unsexy.Yet Still Good Old Books Beat All the Rest
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