Lonely Planet Writer

100 million guidebooks - and counting!

Tony Wheeler

Our 100 millionth book has rolled off the press and is ‘officially’ published this week. How do we know? Because Andy Neilson, our first ever employee, has been keeping track of our print runs almost since day one.

And that momentous title? It is Australia 15 - and Andy swears ‘there was absolutely no juggling done. Pure serendipity!’

Australia is our number one title

It was the first to reach a million copies in print back in July 1999. India followed by hitting the million mark in April 2001, then Thailand in March 2002, New Zealand in October that year, Southeast Asia on a Shoestring in February 2004, China in March 2007 and our first European title to reach a million copies, Italy in December 2007. Just one month earlier Australia became our first two-million copy title.

From our first book in 1973, it took us 26 years until 1999 to reach 30 million copies in print. Five more years took us to 60 million in 2004. Now, just six years later, we have reached our 100 million milestone.

It’s great to know we’ve published 100 million books, but the reality is that they represent hundreds of millions of shared travel stories experienced by Lonely Planet travellers, which is far more important. And sharing those stories is something we’ve been encouraging for decades.

We invited feedback in our very first books and soon began to include the useful warning that ‘Things change – prices go up, good places go bad, bad places go bankrupt – so if you find things better or worse, recently opened or long ago closed, please write and tell us’.

Our travellers have taken that statement seriously. From the very beginning we’ve been supported by thousands of travellers who have written invaluable letters about their experiences.

User generated what?

The phrase ’user generated content’ hadn’t been invented yet, but in 1981 we made our first foray into this arena by sending out a quarterly newsletter incorporating information from Lonely Planet travellers and our writers out on the road.

We loved comments such as, 'Don’t wait politely for everyone to shove before you. You are entitled to practice rugby scrum tactics anywhere. Don’t be persuaded into doing what doesn’t feel good. Stand firm. You can usually get what you want by the simple expedient of hanging around for long enough. Don’t wear shoes inside,' from a South African fan navigating India in 1983.

Our newsletter compilers evolved into today’s Talk2Us team, the connection to our travellers and an attempt to be more responsive to their feedback and to develop better ways of incorporating it into our planning for new editions.

The Thorn Tree forum was born in 1996 and moved us into the era of online traveller conversations with the ever-growing Lonely Planet community. Today there are close to three quarters of a million Thorn Tree users, and a new post goes up every 12 seconds.

Today we’re a multimedia travel publisher. Content from our guides feeds into the world’s media (you only have to look at the amount of attention Best In Travel 2010 has already received in international media), into research and inspiration for the Lonely Planet Magazine, our award winning television programmes, mobile devices and partnerships across the globe and, of course, lonelyplanet.com.

Join in the celebration

We're excited by this milestone, and we want you to celebrate with us.

Next week, we'll be announcing a fun (and hopefully rewarding) way in which you can share in the festivities. You'll be hearing more from me then.

Thanks to all of you for continuing to keep the spirit of Lonely Planet alive and constantly evolving as the world keeps changing. All those years ago we never imagined we would reach 100 million books. We look forward to the next 100 million travel tales, wherever they may take us.

Tony and Maureen