Do guidebooks still matter?

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That's the question posed by K.C. Summers, the longtime editor of the Washington Post's Travel section, on our partner blog, Travel Log.

She wonders "if travel guidebooks have become irrelevant -- outdated before they even hit the shelves."

Budget Travel has compared the pros and cons of guidebooks, user review sites, and other sources of information in an article called "When Everybody's an Expert, Who Can You Trust?"

Anonymous user-review websites are increasingly popular alternatives to guidebooks, of course. But like guidebooks, they also have flaws. Zagat reviews, for example, are powerfully influential. But this SmartMoney article accuses Zagat of grade inflation.

What do you think about guidebooks and their alternatives? Feel free to add your two cents below.

For another helpful resource, you can turn to the anonymous user-review websites, such as Trip But with these "vox populi" sites, you need to be wary of what you read. BT's standard advice for making the most of such sites is to ask the following questions: "What if the reviewer is simply someone whose taste you wouldn't care about if you ever met him or her? Is the information in the posting even accurate?"

In short, before you trust your money and your hard-earned vacation time with the advice of strangers, try to surf around online and use other sources of information to confirm any information you get from a user-review site.

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