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Personalized guidebooks: your trip, your way

Frommer's

Frommer's Remix is a new line of on-demand, customizable guidebooks for 33 destinations around the world.

You’re not a generic, “off the shelf” traveler, so why should you settle for a generic guidebook off the bookstore shelf?

That seems to be the driving philosophy behind Frommer’s Remix, a new line of guidebooks launched this week by the New Jersey-based publisher. Working in conjunction with HP, the company is now offering on-demand, customizable guidebooks for 33 destinations around the world.

“The process of researching travel is overly complicated for many travelers,” said Craig Schickler, the company’s director of e-business development. “We wanted to take content and travel information from multiple sources, bring it together, personalize it and deliver it to your doorstep.”

To get to that point, users enter their destination, click through subsequent screens covering attractions or restaurants, and note their preferences by selecting or deselecting specific categories. Other features include integration with TripIt’s itinerary management tool and an array of discount coupons provided through a partnership with The Entertainment Book. 

The result is a perfect-bound, full-color guidebook with user-selected content, customized maps and, if desired, your own title. (Think "Jill and Fred’s Honeymoon Adventure.") With two-day delivery, they’re being offered for $9.99 with 12 included coupons through Dec. 31; after that, prices will start at $19.99 and go up based on any additional coupons selected.

How much personalization consumers are really looking for, however, is an open question. “People say they want personalization, but what they really want is relevance,” said David Sifry, CEO of Offbeat Guides, which has produced “hundreds of thousands” of customizable guides since 2008.

In fact, according to the company’s research, only 20 percent of customers actually unselect sections. “Most people don’t really want to do the work to build the book themselves,” he said. “They want someone to be their local expert, tell them what to see and do based on where they’re going to be staying.”

Equally important, he says, people love the serendipity of discovering things outside their professed areas of interest: “If you show someone only ballet and you don’t show them jazz, they’re less satisfied,” he told msnbc.com.

Nevertheless, customizable, on-demand guidebooks can be useful for those who feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of travel information currently available.

“At the end of the day, we’re all time-pressed,” said John Peters, vice president and general manager of digital strategy and business development for Rand McNally. “Anything that makes you feel like someone has done some homework for you is a positive thing.”

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter