ALONG with travel agencies, bookstores, and consolidators, guidebook publishers are now tapping into the Internet's World Wide Web (WWW) to reach more people.
Three guidebook biggies - Rough Guides, Moon Publications, and Lonely Planet Publications - now have or are developing WWW sites.
Austrailia-based Lonely Planet's WWW site (http://www.lonelyplanet.com) has been in operation since January. Already it is getting about 75,000 "hits" per week, says Eric Kettunen, manager of the publisher's United States operations in Oakland, Calif.
"We're not really looking at it as a way to sell books; we're looking at it as a way to provide information to our travelers," Mr. Kettunen says, adding that Lonely Planet receives thousands of letters from readers that it uses for updates and shares on-line.
Currently, the Lonely Planet site includes fact sheets for a variety of countries, a newsletter, and a section with reader comments. Kettunen says that the site is good for "before-you-go" information but is not expected to replace Lonely Planet's book products.
Moon Publications, based in Chico, Calif., also aims to have its site be a resource for travelers and a complement to its guidebook publishing, says spokesperson Jason Sadler. The Moon site (http://www.moon.com:7000/), created last summer, receives several hundred hits a day, says Mr. Sadler, and currently includes a copy of Moon's newsletter, and graphic- and text-based items on Hawaii and traveling US Route 50, with more such interactive displays on the way.
Waiting in the wings is the WWW site for Rough Guides, which will debut at the end of July (http://www.roughguides.com). Spokeswoman Jean Marie Kelley says the British-based publisher's goal is "to raise our profile with the people on the Web." The site will include information from the Rough Guides and items for women travelers. This fall, a site sponsored by HotWired will offer multimedia presentations of Rough Guides US guidebooks. Ms. Kelley says the Internet is where they want to be because it is "very much going to be tied into the future of publishing."