How Long Can Cookbooks and Restaurant Guides Survive in the Digital Age?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

recipe box

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s story looks at the second edition of the Paris Cookbook Fair, which is offering a professional venue for cookbook publishers to gather together annually to talk shop and trade rights.

Time was that you had a shelf in your kitchen laden with cookbooks; today, all you need is an iPad or a smartphone to look up almost any recipe that you want and a video of how to prepare it.

The same goes for restaurant guidebooks. Certainly there are millions of people who use printed guidebooks, but the younger generations are more inclined to check out Yelp or any of a dozen other Web sites, many of them far more timely and localized than any printed guidebook could ever be.

Even a venerable critical references like Michelin Guide is losing some of its relevance; and has tried to win back readers by offering a “privilege card” and expanding its coverage of lower cost restaurants.

Certainly there will remain a limited market for high end, through-the-looking-glass cookbooks featuring ingredients and recipes that you’ll never attempt at home and titles like Nathan Myhrvold’s exotic, $625, 2,400-page self-published, Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking.

But what of the typical cookbook and restaurant guide? Are their days numbered? How much longer can they last in the face of digital competition?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.