03 Nov 2008
I’m proud to announce the launch of Offbeat Guides first product in public beta!
What’s Offbeat Guides?
Our first product is quite simple: On-demand, Personalized Travel Books. Travel books that are tuned just for you, only about the place that you’re going, with local information like festivals, events, and concerts that are going on during the dates of your stay. We put in local maps that are tuned to where you’ll be, and we even customize the guide based on what we learn about you, like the timezone differences from your hometown, electrical plug differences, embassies and consulates nearby, differences in tipping policies, exchange rates, local weather forecasts, and much more.
We provide guides for over 30,000 city destinations around the world – of course we cover New York, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo, but we also have guides to Newark, Paradise, Romeoville, and Tokorozawa, and many more places.
We’re trying to solve the problem that most of us have when we travel – you want to know where to go, what to do when you’re there, and what’s going on while you’re there.
We’re a company run by obsessive technologists who happen to travel a LOT. We don’t come out of the travel industry. We’re travelers, just like you. We value your time, so we focused on simplicity. To get started, we only ask you 5 questions:
- Where are you going: We currently cover over 30,000 city destinations
- When will you be there: So we can include information about local festivals, events, club meetings, sports teams, concerts, and other timely information
- Where are you coming from: With this information, we give you contextal information, like timezone differences, embassies and consulates for your home country, language guides, exchange rates, electrical adapters needed, and more.
- Where are you staying: So we can localize the maps that go into your guide, and put your hotel right at the center of things.
- The Traveler’s Name: Well, we need to know who you are, so we can put your name right on the book cover! Makes for great gifts, too.
From that, we show you a live preview of your guide, with sights, attractions, restaurants, and hotels – but we also pull in all the local and contextual information we can find, tuning your guide just for you, your preferences, and your trip details.
We also brought on a top-notch team of travel experts, who have gone through the top 1000 city destinations in the world, called the museums, checked on the hotel information, and chatted with the restaurateurs. We built an travel search engine to help us to locate the most interesting information about the other 29,000 destinations, using both freely available information as well as licensed information from partners like Wikitravel, Wikipedia, Flickr, Eventful, Upcoming, Meetup, the World Factbook, and many other local sources. As we continue to build out the site, we’ll be adding in many more validated sources as well as incorporating feedback from travelers and locals into the future guides.
Can I customize it?
Of course. You get full control over your guide – so if you already know where you’re staying, you can click to deselect all of the information about hotels, for example. You can add customized chapters and fill them with information that you gather from your friends, or from around the internet.
And when you’re done, you can get your guide in multiple formats:
- As a beautifully printed full-color book, shipped to your door (or your hotel!) right before you leave on your trip so it has the freshest information in it,
- As a PDF suitable for printing on your home printer, or downloading onto your mobile phone or reading device, or
- On the web so you can read through the book on-line, and update information before and during your trip.
Why only City Guides?
Well, we had to start somewhere. One of the most-requested features from our private beta testers has been to create regional or area guides, for example, for Maui, or for The Napa Valley. We’re working on this, it’s in the pipeline, but we wanted to open the doors to all of you, even if those country or regional guides aren’t ready yet. Another frequently requested feature is for multi-segment trips – where you are visiting multiple places on a single trip. Right now, you’ll have to get a guide for each place, but this is something that we’re definitely keeping an eye on as we continue to build out the product.
How much does it cost?
It’s USD $9.95 to buy the PDF version, so you can print it yourself and save money. It’s USD $24.95 + shipping to buy the book, and the PDF comes included – you can download updated PDFs as many times as you want before your trip ends, as well! That’s about the same or less than you’d pay to buy a guide in a bookstore, and you’d end up with information that’s 12-24 months old, that’s not customized to you.
Is there a Money-back Guarantee?
Yes! If you’re unhappy with your guide for any reason whatsoever, simply let us know, and we’ll refund your money. No questions asked. Even if it is after your trip, and you’ve used the book. We’re committed to making a really great experience for you, so if you’re unhappy with the guide at all, we will refund your money.
Where’s the catch? Why is it Beta?
This is a pretty ambitious product, and we’re really happy with what we’ve built so far – but there’s still so much more to do. We’ve been testing for 5 months in private beta with over 6,000 people helping us to get things right, but things still crop up, and we want to learn more from you. We’re opening up the doors to let anyone come and kick the tires and buy some guides, and we really want to get your thoughts and feedback so we can make the experience and the guide information as good as possible. There will be bugs. We promise to stay in touch both on our blog and on Get Satisfaction and keep you in the loop as we find and fix bugs and issues. We appreciate your willingness to work with us on this and to help us create a great product together.
For our Private Beta Testers
We love you. We really really do! Thanks so much for all the help and feedback, you are the best group of testers I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. The free book coupons that you got as a private beta tester are still valid until November 30th; after that they won’t work anymore, so don’t procrastinate! We’ll also be sending you a survey as we close up the private beta – please check for it in your mailbox soon. It should take 10-15 minutes to fill out, but it will really help us to get your thoughts and feedback and to continue to improve the product. Thanks!!!
How to get involved
Well, first off, come and kick the tires! Check out the guide preview for your hometown, or for a place you’re visiting soon. Drop us a line and let us know how things look. Are there errors? Problems with the information? Are we missing a great feature? Let us know!
Also, follow us on Twitter! We’re @offbeatguides. We love hearing from you.
Thanks for all of your support. On a personal note, I want to thank the Offbeat Guides Team who have weorked their butts off getting this built. I’m really excited to be taking this next adventure with you!