Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday, October 1 Dedicated Issue: DK Eyewitness Travel

DK Eyewitness: The Journey Starts Here

Editors' Note

DK Eyewitness Travel

With the help of the publisher, Shelf Awareness takes the next step on the publishing journey of DK Eyewitness Travel and its award-winning travel guides.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Prague, Rome, and Paris by DK Travel

Books & Authors

The Relaunch of DK Eyewitness Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style--with a stunning makeover that updates the guidebook brand for today's travelers. Known for travel guides whose visually appealing design makes it easy for readers to access all kinds of information about the places they're visiting, the publisher is relaunching the books with what publishing director Georgina Dee calls "the single largest investment" the company has ever made in its flagship series. The aim is to create travel guides that are "as much at home in your bag on your trip as on your coffee table when you get home" and that include information that "has been thoroughly researched, designed with love and will ultimately make your trip better."

The relaunch includes, for the first time, all new photography, new content in the first sections of the book, revamped content throughout and completely updated maps. In addition, the guides are now printed on a more modern, lightweight, uncoated paper that reduces the weight of the guide and, as Dee points out, "makes them much more tactile." The new DK Eyewitness guides have "an inspirational, gorgeous look and feel," are easy to navigate and offer solid, practical information that can be accessed in a variety of ways.

The relaunch has begun with 10 DK Eyewitness Guide annuals this fall (for more on those titles, see below), and by the end of 2019, 44 key titles will have been remade.

While the changes are extensive, Dee emphasized, the DK Eyewitness Guides remain true to the principles that have guided the series since its founding in 1993. They were originally conceived as the visual travel guide that "showed you what a destination had to offer before you went," Dee explains. The company has stayed true to that while having "today's traveler in mind. Our expertise in marrying visuals and text to give the reader multiple ways into the information is still as important to the guides as it was 25 years ago."

The guides' photography--which has always been a key element of DK Eyewitness books--has been transformed, in large part because everyone has becomes used to high-quality photographs in the modern digital era. Thus, as Dee puts it, travel guide photos no longer need simply to show travelers what a destination looks like. Instead photos need "to show what a destination feels likes." With the relaunch, "we have completely brand new photography on every page in every book for the first time," Dee says. "And they are absolutely stunning."

Hand-drawn illustrations are also a key element of the guides and have been updated with an emphasis on clarity and their color. "We're thrilled with them," Dee notes.

In each guide, the first 40-50 pages is brand new. "We wanted to give the reader something really special to help them get excited about their trip," Dee explains. "We wanted them to recognize themselves in the first pages of the guide and allow themselves to really start dreaming about what they want to do on their trip."

The structure of key information has been improved as well. "We still take you through the destination area by area, but now the must-see sights are pulled to the front of each area so you can immediately see what's not to miss," Dee says. Also, information about hotels, restaurants and bars have been moved to relevant sections rather than being listed at the back of the book.

Layout and design has been improved so that every spread "delivers on every level," Dee says. "The design is inviting yet sophisticated and the layout gives the reader all the navigational tools they need to find the information they want."

The maps have all been updated throughout the guides "to ensure they are bigger where necessary and perfectly suited to the role they are filling at that point in the guide," Dee notes. "Our in-house cartographers are masters of their craft and this shows in every beautiful map in the books." (For more on DK Eyewitness mapmaking, see the q&a below with the mapmaking team.)

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Italy, Paris, and London by DK Travel

Listening to Consumers

Georgina Dee (center); photo: The Bookseller

To make sure that the relaunch of DK Eyewitness Travel would best serve travelers, the company opted to do some extensive consumer research that publishing director Georgina Dee calls "worth it a thousand times over."

The consumer research had several components, the key of which was the focus groups held across the U.S. and U.K. markets. These were devised to include as broad a representation as possible. While the company found that "our DK Eyewitness travel guides were well loved and it was very reassuring to hear that printed travel guides were absolutely still what travelers wanted," Dee says, it was clear that "the look and feel of our guides needed updating."

The company followed up with some of the consumers, showing them early relaunch designs. "The reaction was overwhelmingly positive," Dee said. "Listening directly to what our consumers had to say has been a wonderful experience and what was the best surprise was the passion they still had for travel guides."

The company has also found that some of today's travelers do like digital copies of travel books, so with the relaunch, for the first time, DK Eyewitness Travel is offering e-book versions of its titles. Dee notes, "The majority of travel guides are still bought in print--it is hard to get away from the benefits of this tried and tested format--but ultimately we want our consumers to have the choice."

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Ireland, Rome, New York City by DK Travel

DK Mapmakers Chart New Ground in Helping Today's Travelers

DK Eyewitness's team of mapmakers talks about how they make the best maps for today's travelers:

How crucial are your maps for today's travelers? 

When planning a trip, it's great to get a good geographic context, to work out how the different parts of the destination link together. Understanding the layout of a city or region is the first step to really starting to connect to it and maps are the best way to do this. The maps drawn for our books are designed expressly for the readers and show only what is helpful to navigate and explore somewhere new without anything cluttering the maps, all while keeping them as wonderful to look at as possible.

Not only are they practical tools, but maps can in their own right be beautiful things. Flicking through a book, most people will pause at a map to explore. Maps and guidebooks are treasured long after the trip is over. The travel-worn guidebook collection is as much of a reminder of a holiday as the photographs taken, and books can sometimes be the much-needed physical memento on the shelf.

How are they different from maps of the past? 

Our guidebooks have many images which are hand-drawn, sketched or painted but the maps we make are all produced 100% digitally. The tools we use mean we can adapt and change maps very quickly to keep things current, so the maps can serve their essential purpose, which is to show where things are as clearly as possible.

Do today's travelers have different expectations about maps--and do they use them differently from the way travelers of the past did?

On the whole people use maps for exactly the same purpose as they did centuries ago, to find out where things are. Most daily interactions with maps are the online mapping services which tend to be dedicated to efficient navigation more than location and experience. 

There is a big difference between online mapping and our printed cartography, which is immediately apparent when you look at our maps. We undertook some major research to see how travel guides are used in these days of Google maps and social media. The near consistent response was that our maps were loved and trusted for how they present information, and how they can help you learn more about a place above and beyond just how to get around.

What are the most popular kinds of maps for today's travelers?

It depends on the traveler and destination. If you are heading to Rome for a week, then a clear, localized mapping is perfect, but a week hiking in the Cascades requires more dedicated topographic sheetmapping.

Online mapping such as Google maps is hugely popular and it is a fantastic resource, but when you add roaming charges, battery limitations and the risk of losing devices, printed maps are still rightly popular. You can annotate and make your map your own on paper much easier than online and you connect more with a physical thing, it becomes much more part of the experience.

You will always explore a destination more with a map, but if you are following the quickest route given by your phone you can isolate yourself from the locations around you, whereas a printed map opens you up to so many more opportunities.

How much do you revise maps from one edition of a travel guide to the next?

Every map is checked over for every edition by the team. Authors, editors, updaters and of course the cartography team each focus on different elements to ensure everything is correct.

How has map making changed in the digital era and with GPS?

It's an entirely new world! Anything that can produce a set of coordinates can be used as a tool to make a map and most smart phones can capture incredibly detailed GPS coordinates, suddenly everyone with a phone can start getting involved in map making. As a result, digital map data is now available for pretty much every place on the planet easier and cheaper than ever, the problem is not all of it is as reliable as we would hope which means we still need to check the data we use.

The digital map data is always just a starting point for us to build maps and the sheer amount of data means we have to edit down more than ever to ensure maps are as clear as possible.

How up to date are your maps?

We are checking the maps up to the point we send the books to the printers.

How detailed are your maps?

The level of detail we show on a map depends on what we are trying to show. A map covering the whole of greater Tokyo showing every road would be so busy as to be totally useless, successful maps are as much to do with what is left out than what is shown. Maps of smaller areas can include more detail to really help navigate your way around on foot by showing and labelling pedestrian areas, footbridges and streams. The great thing about the design of the new Eyewitness Guides is we have now got more space than ever for the mapping, meaning we can map the destination to the page as clearly as possible.

How do you coordinate maps that are in printed books and maps online?

We produce e-book versions of our guides that contain everything the printed book holds, including the maps, of course!

What are the most common misconceptions among readers about your work?

A common misconception is the maps team are endlessly jetting off around the world. Thanks to the work of the authors and our access to up-to-date digital data we tend, regrettably, to not leave our desks.

We do however learn the world remotely which can be a unique experience when you arrive in a city you've never been to and discover you know your way around just from working on the maps for years and years.

The First Relaunched Guides

The relaunch of DK Eyewitness Travel begins tomorrow with the release of 10 guides covering the must-see sights and the hidden corners of a variety of popular destinations in the U.S. and Europe. The new look will roll out across the publishing program with more guides published during 2019. The first relaunched guides are:

Amsterdam ($25, 9781465471574)
Berlin ($25, 9781465471604)
Ireland ($25, 9781465471598)
Italy ($30, 9781465471581)
London ($25, 9781465471635)
New York City ($25, 9781465471628)
Paris ($25, 9781465471611)
Prague ($25, 9781465471550)
Rome ($25, 9781465471543)
Washington, D.C. ($23, 9781465471536)

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Italy by DK Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Ireland by DK Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Amsterdam by DK Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Washington D.C. by DK Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Berlin by DK Travel

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