Cover-SF Travel & Photo Guide, by Lee Foster

Is a “website book” possibly a new form of travel book publishing for BATW authors?

by Lee Foster

As BATW members who aspire to publish travel books wrestle with their opportunities, could a “website book” be considered a new form?

We all recognize a book when we see it. In the past that has meant a printed book. But into that mix came the ebook, about a decade ago. And within that ebook sector there is the app, which might be considered an ebook with special functionality.

However, a factor affecting this situation, especially in travel, is that it is increasingly difficult to sell an informational package of any kind to the public. There is so much free information out there. Before folks will pay for content, they will be willing to endure ads and sponsorship of content by those trying to sell them something, such as destination promoters, tour operators, hoteliers, and transportation providers (car and air especially).

Possibly the BATW author aspiring to do travel books will consider doing products for sale and also put that same product online as a website book, funded by these sellers of travel destinations and services.

One example of this is my recent SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area. That book is an ebook on Amazon among my various books at http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz. You may have to scroll right to see the book, depending on how Amazon orders the books.

Aside from being a conventional ebook, this project is also a website book on my website at http://bit.ly/2wEJjyV. Yes, the entire book is one long file, 120 short chapters.

Why would I do this? There are a cluster of reasons and monetizing opportunities. See more thoughts on this at http://bit.ly/2uN7GtR.

Clearly, another model might be possible beyond the entire book as one file. Why not publish each chapter of a book as its own article/post on a WordPress website? That is another good option. I have done that, presenting my book Northern California Travel: The Best Option in diverse ways. You can see it on my Amazon Author Page http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz as a print book and ebook, and if you scroll right, even as an ebook in Chinese, a whole other discussion. But it is also a website book.

The same book’s 30 chapters are articles on my website if you click on Norcal in the black bar at www.fostertravel.com. The sequence of chapters gets a little messed up because when I update a chapter it goes to the top of the list.

This entire discussion falls under the subject of monetization. For some of our BATW colleagues, this is a tedious subject. Why not just enjoy life, travel, and express ourselves in some way, not caring if we ever have a significant audience or earn a dime? I will not argue with anyone’s wish to spend their precious time in this life in that manner.

But there is a restless side of me that wants to emphasize monetization, partly for the next generation of travel journalists coming up. Are we creating an industry where they can support themselves? I will lead a panel on monetization soon at the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) annual convention, this year in Portland early November.

I also made a monetization presentation recently to our local sister organization BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association). You can see the slideshow and a competent YouTube video of the talk at http://bit.ly/2c8wG74.

The travel publishing world as we know it keeps changing – and now is the time for us either to join the vanguard or fall into irrelevance. Collectively, our BATW colleagues can assist us toward the best outcome.