Next Big Thing: City Guides in Print

Some things were meant to be in print, and some things were meant to be a Web site. But what does it mean when “Hometown Pasadena” sells 10,000 copies?

The self-published book by local writer Colleen Dunn Bates and three other locals, was put out a year ago. It is now carried at local bookstores, both chain and independent, Costco and even a hair salon (per a nice write-up by Scott Timberg in The LA Times). Amazon has it in hardcover for $22.95, with a paperback version coming out tomorrow.

Bates is now branching out with Hometown Santa Monica next week. Santa Barbara and Berkeley have their turn next year, and apparently Portland too. There is no mention of the Web anywhere.

Bates is currently localizing the Santa Monica book, focusing on beaches instead of gardens, and entries on Venice instead of Eagle Rock. She plans to hire a local staff in each city, so the books really are about their contributor’s hometowns. In her view, a city is a good target for such a guide if it is “small enough to be a hometown,” and “forward thinking.” “Pasadena has a healthy self-image. It’s in love with itself, and that helps,” she says.

In my view, that’s really poignant. My town, Carlsbad, is definitely like that. People wake up every morning absolutely grateful to live here. Maybe some cities are not.

“It’s about how to really live in a place and be in a place and understand a place, even if you’ve lived there for 20 years,” she told The Times. “My model was not to have it look like a Fodor’s guide.”

The Times article opines that “Bates’ book taps into the growing desire to conduct the business of one’s life as locally as possible.” I like that, too.

What I am seeing is more and more evidence of how print editions are valued, and how they complement a Web site, adding even more value to the utilitarian stuff we get online. Anyone who ignores the value of print does so at his/her own peril.

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