Google Sells Frommer's Travel Book Line Back to Founder

Google bought the line last September for travel content, but then announced the end of the print books in March.

Google officials have sold the renowned Frommer's travel book line back to its founder, just seven months after buying it to add to the search giant's rich content and only two weeks after announcing that the print versions of the books would end.

The dramatic move came to light with reports that Arthur Frommer had reacquired the rights to the print versions of the travel guides and will soon republish them. As part of the deal, Google will license content from Frommer's.

Frommer confirmed his reacquisition of the book line in an April 4 phone call with eWEEK, but said he could not comment further on the deal.

However, in a phone interview with the Associated Press April 3, Frommer, 83, was ecstatic about being able to get his brand back. "It's a very happy time for me," Frommer told the AP. "We will be publishing the Frommer travel guides in ebook and print formats and will also be operating the travel site"

Reached via email by eWEEK, a Google spokesperson said the company also confirms "that we have returned the Frommer's brand to its founder and are licensing certain travel content to him."

The Google spokesperson withheld further comment on the specifics of the action and the details of the deal.

"We're focused on providing high-quality local information to help people quickly discover and share great places, like a nearby restaurant or the perfect vacation destination," the spokesperson wrote. "That's why we've spent the last several months integrating the travel content we acquired from Wiley into Google+ Local and our other Google services."

Frommer's, a name well-known and beloved by consumers for its travel guides to destinations around the world, was acquired by Google in August 2012 as the search giant continued its efforts to build richer troves of content to help it increase online local search ad revenue, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Google bought Frommer's from publisher John Wiley & Sons, which was selling off some of its consumer print and digital products.

The acquisition price was not revealed at that time, but according to a recent report from the Skift travel publishing Website, it totaled about $22 million.

One sign that Google was intending to drop the print versions of the travel books came when the Frommer's online bookstore that had previously been a part of the Frommer's Website was removed in September 2012.

By buying the Frommer's line, Google was continuing to go where the money is as it works to push more ads in the lucrative local service marketplace as consumers go online for up-to-date travel information. By providing quality content that consumers are seeking, Google can lure advertisers to place ads on the Web pages, increasing its revenue.

The move added another big name to Google's brand stable after the company purchased Zagat, another well-known company that aggregates reviews on restaurants, nightspots, hotels and other attractions from more than 350,000 surveyors around the world.

The September 2011 acquisition of Zagat was a success story for Google after several other well-publicized failed purchase attempts. Google unsuccessfully sought to buy local review powerhouse Yelp in 2009 and group coupon provider Groupon in 2010. After those deals died, Google went on to relaunch its local search product as Google Places, significantly improving the service with its own recommendation engine and reviews.