How many times we are traveling and someone has a travel guide book in their hands? Tons and tons. Seems that for some people every time they travel they need to buy a Travel book which is quite expensive, if you travel often to different countries.
Nowadays we have Internet and you can find all sort of information you need there. But you cannot walk around with a laptop, you can have internet acess in your tablet or smart phone. However many people prefer to read the book just because either they are used to or don't know how to use internet.
In my opinion Travel Guide Books can be pretty handy but also can be "dangerous" if you consider them as a traveller "bible". In the past, I talked with travellers who only would go to places mentioned in the travel book and despise other places also important to take a look or to experience. Aren't you missing something on your trip? Why following what a book says all the time? What about let it go, go with the flow?
Imagine you meet someone in the bus who's going to do Home Stay (staying with a family for a couple of days) and invite you but the travel guide says it's dangerous and you deny because you believe in every single word of the book guide and you miss a brilliant chance to experience culture in a pure and simple way. This is an imaginary situation but what I want to say with this example is that the Travel book only tells the authors experiences, doesn't mean will happen to you.
I think that when you travel is fundamental talking with locals and ask them where to go, where to eat, where to sleep, they are the best guides that you can have since they live there or even grew up there which makes them the travel wizzards :) Obviosly all depends on your taste and interests, but you can tell the locals what are you looking for and they will find answers to your all your questions. That's the main reason I love Couch Surfing community so much.
I mostly use them to check out maps and to read about the History behind a site or a town. I never read the where to eat or to sleep part because I done before and mostly of places I was interested either were closed or more expensive as they mentioned. Not the book fault, maybe the updated version is more corrected?
I have about five travel books, two are from Australia that my cousin gave them to me but I never use them. One is from Lonely Planet which I don't like because of the way they write, complicated and messy sometimes. I found Rough Guides the best brand with simple sentences, real stories from travellers and even jokes! They also have this First-Time series, which helped me a lot when I was travelling in Central America and needed maps to situate myself. I bought the First-Time Latin America with all the countries of Central and South America - Genious Idea!
I bought them second hand so they are not updated at all. But for I need (maps and history) are good enough. The Portugal Rough Guide cost me 50 cents in the Flea Market and is perfect for road trips in Portugal.
Another option are the PDF format travel guide. When I was in India, two german girls saved some files in my USB pen driver with guides to Tailand, India, Vietnam, Laos. They were pretty useful and the best is that they weren't heavy on my back like books are ;)
What about you? What are your thoughts about travel books? Do you find them practical? Do you have same point of view as me or different one? Express yourself, let's discuss!