The Age is reporting that the commercial arm of the Lonely Planet, the publishers of the travel-guide books that many of us make considerable use of. The founds will keep a 25%25 stake of the company.

I will confess that I’m a big fan of the books (although a little less so of some of the maps in them), and have regularly used them for planning trips and for finding out-of-the-way places of interest that a traveller might not necessarily discover themselves. I realise that there’s a couple of diametrically opposed poles when it comes to guidebooks – those who consider them responsible for “cookie-cutter” travel and those who take one everywhere they go.

I definitely fall somewhere towards the latter group; you definitely need to research your destination before you go, and it really helps to know its history. It’s not always possible for people to spend weeks in a library or on the internet tracking down the right information, and a well-written guidebook can provide everything from useful history, to accomodation advice and transit planning. Furthermore, there’s always going to be a town or city where the attractions are so hidden, or off-beat, that a newcomer is unlikely to be able to find them for themselves, and a guidebook can definitely help them make the most of their trip.

So, with that said, I must say that I got somewhat of a shock to see Lonely Planet being sold. Obviously, they could have done far worse than the BBC; at least we can be sure that their editorial independence is safe – but I do wonder what happens in the long term if the BBC ever decides to sell…

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