Earthcomber LLC created the free technology that incorporates maps and personal favorites with traditional travel, reference and other mainstream publications. Among the first offerings are city guides from Mobil Travel Guide (the company's first venture into mobile publishing) and Avalon Publishing's Moon Metro series.
Spot Guides run on Palm OS phones and PDAs, and provide location sensing and area searching with or without GPS. Versions for Windows Mobile, cell phones and BlackBerry devices are in production.
Much like the iPod™ has miniaturized music to become portable and personal, Earthcomber Spot Guides present users with their favorite kinds of information as they come upon the actual places where it is most useful. Multiple Spot Guides, unabridged and with photos, can fit onto a single, stamp-sized memory card.
Spot Guides are a "plug-in" to Earthcomber's basic free mobile software and built-in digital maps. The patent-pending technology maintains individual privacy while constantly combing the area each person travels for unlimited numbers of personal interests -- anything from an ATM to a waterfall, cup of coffee, museum, bistro, school, golf course, bar or even local events.
Unlike books in print, Spot Guides give a person the option of exploring the electronic guide through hot-linked pages, special icons, photos and searches – all within the context of a book title. As the reader considers any place mentioned, Earthcomber displays the distance to that spot. As the person moves, distances are updated.
"Imagine your bookmarks tapping you on the shoulder," says Jim Brady, Earthcomber founder and former Oprah new media executive. "Spot Guides are like books that you can leave ‘on.’ The idea is that life is so much more interesting, and we could get so much more out of every day, if only we could know what's right around us."
The Spot Guide format is appealing for a wide variety of books. Many publishers find Earthcomber attractive as a new vehicle for putting out mobile products, and organizations also are turning to Earthcomber to publish guides that are location-aware and ultra-portable:
• The Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association packed city history, neighborhood sketches, travel info and member locations into a Spot Guide;
• Damron Company is offering a comprehensive guide to gay-friendly places and services across the US;
• The Find-A-Grave website has created a mobile famous grave spotter.
"With no printing, paper, shipping or shelf-stocking, Spot Guides dodge the usual costs and risks," Brady said.
Guides are sold online at earthcomber.com and publisher web sites, and priced typically between $9.50 and $20.
Some are given away free, depending on the publisher's intent.