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Lonely Planet’s Top 5 Pubishing Mistakes (according to Tony Wheeler)Nominee

August 4th, 2010 by Doug Lansky

tonywheeler
In 1972, Maureen and Tony Wheeler famously road-tripped across Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and, the following year after settling in Sydney, they penned Across Asia on the Cheap.  They turned that one book into a travel publishing empire that now includes 500 titles in 8 languages (100 million copies sold!), TV programs, a TV production company, a magazine, mobile phone applications and a popular website. In 2007, they (together with investor John Singleton) sold 75% of Lonely Planet to BBC Worldwide for an undisclosed sum that several news outlets reported was in the neighborhood of £90 million.  Now that the founders have a little more distance between themselves and the day-to-day of running a publishing company, they were able to comment on some of the publishing gaffes they’ve made over the years. “Any book has mistakes,” said Tony, “whether it’s a typo, a misspelling or something factual. Packed with facts, figures and names, guidebooks can be a recipe for disaster. I’m amazed we manage to get everything right 99.99% of the time.”  Keep reading as Tony recalls five of LP’s most memorable mistakes.

1. Wrong Numbers
One wrong digit can be disastrous. We do a lot of double checking, but every now and then a “1″ becomes a “2″ and all those young travelers arriving at the bus station at midnight phone a popular backpacking hostel and wake up an innocent bystander instead. We did it to Mrs O’Something in Ireland and, apart from changing her phone number, informing everybody she knew, and paying her damages, her lawyer suggested a family trip to EuroDisney would be a good idea.

2. Wrong Title
Sometimes it’s not even the fine print. We managed to turn “Western Europe” into “Westen Europe” on the two-inch-thick spine of one edition, the 72-point typo snuck by designers, typesetters, proofreaders and printers before a packer in the warehouse found it.

3. Wrong Direction
“The next time this author researches a book, tattoo ‘RIGHT’ on his right hand and ‘LEFT’ on his left,” suggested the editor after one book was completed. Getting right and left or east and west mixed up can cause horrendous problems. We got the east and west exits from a major railway station crossed up in one book and sent countless visitors on a wild goose chase for a popular budget hotel.

4 Wrong Correction
Don’t let your editors – the profession seems to have a penchant for political correctness – make too many corrections.They’ll turn classic John Wayne cowboy and Indian flicks into something about cowpersons and native Americans. I wrote about one of my own experiences with overzealous correcting in The Lonely Planet Story:

In 1954 baseball hero Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe and, after the wedding, the happy couple was photographed outside the church of Sts Peter and Paul, a noted landmark in San Francisco’s North Beach district. It’s a famous photograph outside a famous church, but I was careful not to say it was taken after their wedding in the church. Because it wasn’t. Joe was a staunch Catholic and it was his second marriage (Marilyn’s too), so there was no way he could get married in a church. The wedding took place at San Francisco City Hall, only the photographs were taken outside the church. A careful editor checked the facts and found out, just as I had, that Joe and Marilyn weren’t married in the church, but then dug further. Fifteen years earlier Joe DiMaggio had indeed been married in the Sts Peter and Paul Church, to his first wife. So Marilyn Monroe got axed and replaced with Dorothy Arnold. Fortunately, I read the edited copy and caught this very accurate, but rather less interesting, correction and reinstated Marilyn.

[reprinted with permission from TW]

5 Wrong Translation
Translate your guidebook into a different language and a whole new field of error possibilities opens up. Like the German translation which declared that a red light district bar was the very best, the most superlative, the absolutely unbeatable, the incomparable. In fact, in English it was  “topless.”

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Vivek Wagle’s World’s Worst

November 26th, 2009 by Doug Lansky

vivek

Name Vivek Wagle
Who? Editor of Lonely Planet’s website and all things digital.  Born in India, Vivek has lived all over the place and is now (relatively) settled with wife and son in Melbourne, Australia.  Check out his full profile on lonelyplanet.com.
Age 32
Countries Visited 32 (curious coincidence)

Titanic Nominations
1. Worst Hotel Room A no-longer-existing budget hotel in Calcutta. Flying cockroaches, “living” mattress, shared toilet covered in diarrhea.
2. Worst Tourist Attraction Petronas Towers, Malaysia. Sure, they’re tall – but you have to wait forever in line and pay admission to get to the top, and then you can’t see anything because of the haze.
3. Worst Museum Gerald Ford Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. So tragic it’s awesome.
4. Worst Airport LAX. Some surly, clueless staff; outrageous food prices; no crowd management or direction.
5. Worst Bus Ride Siliguri to Darjeeling, W India – nine hours unable to move with my knees up by my ears.
6. Worst Flight Flying from Managua to Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast in a tiny, bumpy plane with an airline that “sometimes” made it (ie 92% of the time) without crashing.

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Thomas Kohnstamm’s World Worsts

May 25th, 2009 by Doug Lansky

thomas

Name Thomas Kohnstamm
Who? Has written over a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks before he went on to write the funny, truthful, behind-the-scenes-of-guidebook-writing bestseller: Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism. He has also contributed to Travel + Leisure, Time Out New York, Forbes and numerous other publications. He is at work on a new book about the first Amazonian to attend Oxford.
Age 33
Countries Visited 50+

Titanic Nominations
1. Worst Hostel I’ll never forget the smell of the hostel in Costa Rica (back in ’98) with the decomposing rat under the bed.
2. Worst Bus Ride Nighttime Greyhound from Port Authority to DC. Hands down. Another one that wasn’t terrible – but was rather funny – happened on a bus in Venezuela: a Dutch friend (who couldn’t read Spanish) overlooked the “urination only” sign on the bathroom door. After taking care of business, he was accosted by the bus stewardess. She promptly checked the stall, upbraided him in front of the other passengers and fined him the equivalent of $12. He tried to deny it, but she publicly refuted him with all sorts of graphic evidence. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.
3. Worst Street Food Random pig organs reheated atop a sheet of corrugated metal. No idea which organs they were. Protein is hard to come by in some parts of the Andes.
4. Worst TV Travel Personality I have a fair amount of respect for anyone who can pull off a travel show. I will say that if I were truly lost in the middle of nowhere that I’d rather run into Survivorman Les Stroud than the relatively more famous Bear Grylls. Giada de Laurentiis (or her writers) would fail Travel Writing 101 with the incessant commentary on “gorgeous sunsets” and “yummy dinners.” But with a famous family and other obvious assets, viewers probably give you a bit more leeway to suck.
5. Worst Guidebook Series People expect me to say Lonely Planet, but I actually think that LP is one of the best. I really don’t dig Fodor’s or Frommer’s – I am not their intended audience. That said, I’d argue that all guidebooks have weaknesses and they are best used as a simple tool for trip organization rather than a paint-by-the-numbers approach to travel.

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Tony Wheeler’s World Worsts

May 3rd, 2009 by Doug Lansky

tony1
Name Tony Wheeler
Age 62
Countries Visited I’m at 141 (just in transit at an airport does not count)
Who? Founder of Lonely Planet publications, writer, unreformed traveler

Titanic Nominations

1. Worst Pizza Many contenders but the pub in Nimbin, northern New South Wales, Australia wins. How could the Australian centre for dope smoking, hippy free living produce something so bloody awful?
2. Worst Toilet Darchen in Tibet, Australians talk of ‘long drop’ outhouses. This was the opposite, a vertical mountain of shit, a long climb to the top.
3. Worst First World Airport Terrible third world airports are no great achievement, LAX and Charles de Gaulle compete for the titles of worst in the first world.
4. Worst Visa Queue India gives you the longest line but for sheer tedious slowness followed by absurd, Kafkaesque, mind bogglingly stupid bureaucracy when you get to the front, the Russians are the clear winners.
5. Worst Drivers The Saudis. Missing guardrails or paint scrapes on the rockface at every corner prove, yet again, that warp speed is fine for the straights but you still have to slow down for the corners.
6. Worst Traffic Jams Bangkok passed the baton on to Manila, but despite competition from Dubai the place that is way out in front – i.e. completely stationary – is Shanghai.
7. Worst Connectivity Why is high tech Japan the only place in the first world where my mobile phone doesn’t roam and my ATM card can’t pull money out of the machine?

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UPDATE: The pub that made Tony’s list for worst pizza is now a bistro under new management and would like everyone to know that they no longer have pizza on the menu.


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