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Google sells travel guide brand back to founder

Julie Bosman (via NYT/ SMH) | July 15, 2013
When Google bought the Frommer's brand of travel guides last August, it was an unlikely union of old and new, of paper and pixels. It didn't last long.

Google sells travel guide brand back to founder
Arthur Frommer, the 83-year-old founder of the company, announced in April that he had bought the brand back from Google, which did not publish any Frommer's guidebooks with David Steinberger, the chief executive of Perseus Books. Photo: The New York Times

When Google bought the Frommer's brand of travel guides last August, it was an unlikely union of old and new, of paper and pixels.

It didn't last long.

Arthur Frommer, the 83-year-old founder of the company, announced in April that he had bought the brand back from Google, which did not publish any Frommer's guidebooks.

Now he is moving quickly to release his first batch of books in October under a new name, FrommerMedia.

In an interview on Friday, Mr Frommer said he had struck a deal with Publishers Group West, a member of the Perseus Books Group, to distribute and help market and promote the books, a major step in reviving the publishing machine of one of the most renowned brands in the travel industry.

"I feel like I'm starting all over again," Mr Frommer said. "I'm working hard to bring them back to what they were."

Mr Frommer, often considered the father of the travel-guide business, wrote and published his first guide, "The GI's Guide to Travelling in Europe," when he was a young Army corporal living in Berlin.

That guide, turned into a book called "Europe on $US5 a Day," became a huge success. Several years later, after a brief career practising law, Mr Frommer began publishing more travel books, building a business to be a leader in the industry. For many years, Mr Frommer said, the Frommer's books made up close to 25 per cent of all the travel guides sold in the United States.

He has not had direct control over the Frommer's guides for decades. In 1977, Frommer's was sold to Simon & Schuster and later acquired by John Wiley & Sons. (Mr Frommer remained involved as a consultant.)

Last year, Google paid about $US23 million for the brand, saying that it would incorporate the Frommer's content from its books, mobile apps and web site into local reviews. This year, it sold the brand back to Mr Frommer for an undisclosed price. By the end of 2014, Mr Frommer expects to release as many as 80 books. Mr Frommer and his daughter, Pauline, will be co-presidents of the company. A new series, called EasyGuides, are an answer to the increasingly lengthy travel guides on the market that Mr Frommer said were too long to be practical.

The Frommers are restarting the publication of the guides at a difficult time in the travel-book business. Sales of travel guides have been in decline for years, publishers said, under pressure from free web sites like TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist and Yelp.

 

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