I just wanted to say this whole thing is a great idea. As an experienced traveller, I've learned it's really vital to have a good handbook with you when you go someplace new; consequently when I found out I was moving to Hiroshima, Japan for a new job, I started looking for a guide right away. Despite my best efforts I couldn't find any books that had more than a page or two about the city, though, and and I was getting really frustrated until I came here. Even the original Offbeat Guide I was offered didn't have exactly what I wanted (more than I had found previously though)--but the option to add my own content has let me pull in things from all over the Internet. I think it's fantastic. Expatriates' personal blogs and similar sites recommend where to go beyond the Atomic Dome park and other mainstream locations, so with my "Custom chapters" made up of their entries, now I'll be able to hike the mountains surrounding the city without getting lost, watch festival fireworks over Miyajima Shrine, and see cosplayers wander the inner city in April.
Specific things I've found I enjoy about the current beta:
-Autosaving and ease-of-use on edited pages. I'm kind of paranoid about pressing the "save" button every time I make a chance to any kind of document, so it's kind of nice the site does that for me... everything is well laid-out, simple to navigate, and easy to do as far as inserting custom content. A little more sophistication (such as the option to add bolded or italicized text) would be nice, but it's not a huge issue as far as I'm concerned personally.
-Support for international symbols! Big plus here. The copy-paste articles I've been inserting contain Japanese kanji and kana letters; having such native-language text available in a guide is very helpful when you're on the ground, looking for a sign that isn't translated into English characters (or if you're showing your book to a local who might not read English letters, asking for directions.) I was afraid these characters wouldn't come out in the finished version of my guide, but they show up in the PDF version and are marked on the site with international tags, so I have high hopes.
-More pages don't mean you have to pay more. I almost doubled my guide size adding all my entries on surrounding areas, events and fun side-trips, but I didn't have to pay more than the original flat rate.
-Option to keep editing after you buy, but before you print. I didn't even find out about this until Offbeat Guides sent me an email letting me know I could do it. I know I'm going to keep messing with my guide right up until I leave.
Things I think could use a touch of improvement:
-I'd really, really like a preview page to see what my Custom Chapters are going to look like, format-wise and all. It seems this has been requested before so I'm hoping to see it in future versions of the site.
-Bit more original content? I believe someone commented that a lot of things available in the "standard" guide sections are taken straight from Wikitravel. No issue with that per se, as Wikitravel is great and that's where I've found a lot of the best info even with my own research... but it'd be nice if some other sources were more extensively consulted.
-Better maps. Granted, I haven't seen what the printed maps are going to look like in the final version of the book, but it'd be nice if there were more, smaller, more detailed street-level representations to navigate by than what I've seen in my PDFs so far. Think Lonely Planet guides, that have things broken down into neighborhood blocks with every restaurant and attraction described on the page pinpointed on the diagram. This is so useful for getting around on foot. I think this is my biggest issue--as it is I'm going to have to buy a GPS/Google-enabled smartphone so I can figure out where I'm at at all times.
I'm sure I could say much more, but that's where I'll leave things as far as this comment goes. Overall I truly enthuse over this entire concept, and I enjoy using the site. Please keep up the good work.
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EMPLOYEEI’m thankful0Hello Alexis!
Thanks so much for taking the time to write up this detailed feedback. This is what helps us grow and get better.
We have put a lot of your points onto our to-do list, some of them we are already working on or aware of.
Please let us know how you liked your guide for Hiroshima and if you have any other issues or questions, please let us know.