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Touting Time: Offbeat Guides

As much as the Internet has accelerated conventional wisdom, it's also given us the freedom to realize that the conventional wisdom is often, well... complete bull. A fine example of this old wisdom could be represented by your local book retailer's travel guide section. The benefit of the travel book is the convenience of getting it and the ability to hold it in your hands. But what if your store has only a few titles? And if you find the title you need, how do you know its advice is worth its salt? Why should I trust a dude/dudette who might have completely different interests in the first place?

Unconventional wisdom tells us that cities have more to offer than what any one book can cover, especially in the way of niche interests; there could be 100 pages of your 150 page guidebook that you never read. You can probably see where I'm going with this: Why couldn't you have a guide trimmed to your every whim? That you can hold in your hands and cherish for its foresight and level-headedness and its uncannily agreeable tastes? Offbeat Guides is making that leap.

Check out their site and you'll get an immediate feel for their aesthetic: No frills, simple, and catered to you. It's easy to like before you even get to the guide part -- just by telling their engine where you want to go, where you live now and your name, it almost feels like they're about to vest you with some sort of intensely-personalized secret agent rolodex. And it's kinda like that, minus the secrecy part--you're an agent of your own domain. When you finish their first five steps, you'll be presented with a rough draft of your guide, which can be chopped and added onto through their interface. A lot of the information comes from familiar sources like Wikipedia, but if it gets too cluttered with background info you can chop it off in favor of the real meat and potatoes--a handy guide of every hip event in that city, as well as the weather forecast for each day you're traveling. And we're talking about a pool of 30,000 cities to choose from and counting--not too shabby. Add it to your cart and request it in PDF or the pricier glossy-guide-format and in a few days, your shiny, personal guide will be delivered right in advance of your trip. Amazon Kindle owners will be happy to find that they can easily download and store a digital copy of their personalized guide. All the stops: pulled out.

In all, it feels like one of those ideas that everyone has hoped for but no one has executed the right way. Offbeat's approach, however, is inviting and easy. And judging by the way they've run it so far, you can bet their beta version will continue to get stacked with even more stuff to add or subtract to your guides to help your further your journey into full-on customized nirvana. It makes a weekend jaunt to an unknown destination incredibly less clumsy and infinitely more hands-on.

Where I've Been salutes Offbeat Guides' appreciation for the little things that the little guy / girl wants -- they manage to do the dirtiest work in the cleanest, sleekest way possible. Cheers.

You can also keep up with some sage advice and travel news -- particularly for the tech-savvy traveler -- on Offbeat's Travel Blog.

UPDATE: Great news -- Offbeat Guides likes Where I've Been users so much, they're offering 20% off any purchase ! Simply use the coupon code 'whereivebeen20 ' at the checkout page to receive your 20% discount.

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Touting Time: Offbeat Guides + trip