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Infinity and Beyond

An online en-cyclo-paedia reveals knowledge to be both circular and potentially infinite.

Asia Online

A devoted group of cyber-librarians has created a new Asian community.

Follow the Money

Knowledge is power. Peer into the dark corners where money and Congress meet.

Patently Informative

A helpful guide through masses of data? Or yet another cause for information anxiety?

The Couch

In the psychoanalytic tradition, the questions The Couch raises are more important than their answers.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.

Lonely Planet

February 26, 1997

The Lonely Planet guidebook has in the past two decades become the Bible of low-budget world travelers. Anywhere one goes today -- from the mountains of Kirghizstan to the shores of Antarctica, from the rain forests of Costa Rica to the lakes of Finland, from museums in Paris to the camps of Soweto -- one invariably finds devoted backpackers clutching at their sacred Lonely Planet texts as they plan their pilgrimages.

Lonely Planet's cultic origins were appropriately inauspicious: the editors write that the first book, Across Asia on the Cheap, was "put together in a backstreet Chinese hotel in Singapore in 1975," and was "written at a kitchen table and collated, trimmed and stapled by hand." Those days are long gone: what was once an obscure sect has now become a mainstream institution -- which means, of course, that it's time for a Web site.

Lonely Planet

The idea is a natural. In addition to providing practical information lifted directly from its guidebooks, the Lonely Planet site houses bulletin boards where travelers can exchange timely advice about, for example, how best to get a Russian visa, how to cope with new travel restrictions in China, or how to visit Petra with a one-year-old baby. Print guidebooks are available for order online, too, but it's not hard to imagine the day when backpackers will no longer be lugging them around, preferring instead the instant access to the Lonely Planet Web site offered by cybercafés on the beaches of Bali and under the tents at Everest's base camp. By making available the secrets of out-of-the-way travel -- first in books and now on the Internet -- Lonely Planet may end up putting an end to it.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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