Travel is a personal thing. And its variables—money, time, taste—are something DK has started to tackle online. The publisher launched in March to cater to consumers looking for specialized guides they can tailor to their own travel needs. After a soft launch—the site initially featured downloadable snippets of books available for purchase—DK has re-launched with a new feature: personalized books available through POD technology.

The site, which is free to join, currently features content from select books from DK Eyewitness’s Top 10 series, and allows users to cobble together existing content, as well as comments from other community members, to make their own guidebook. Total cost for printing and shipping a book is $15.

"[The site] allows you to create a guide with as little baggage as possible, and as much information as possible,” Ball explained. Aside from tackling the weight issue—the POD titles run up to 96 pages maximum—the site allows travelers to avoid superfluous information. As Ball noted, you don’t need the publisher’s 100+ page guide to Spain, for example, if you’re spending just a few days in Madrid before heading off to Paris for a week. With the site, a user could get the detailed information he needs on what to do in the City of Lights, as well as some bare bones details—the major sites and, say, a few places to eat—in Madrid.

Though has yet to feature much content from DK’s Rough Guides line, Ball said new destinations are being added on a rolling basis. DK is also counting on users to bolster the information on the site. Members to can currently comment on destinations as well as download comments (or entire guides) created by others in the community.

Since the March soft launch, DK had been quietly pushing the site. On launch day an internal e-mail alerted Penguin employees about the site (and encouraged them to comment on recent good, and bad, trips), and select ads have run in Budget Travel. Moving forward, DK has more print ads in place—again in Budget Travel as well as Out Traveler and Surface Magazine—and the site is currently featuring a promotion whereby users can assemble and print a guide for free until September 20. In 2008, partnerships to push the site will also launch with Google and Travelscope (a PBS-aired TV show that DK underwrites).

The software also lets the company test the growing self-published photobook market. Aside from adding necessities like maps, users can create their own cover and fill the book with pictures, making the final product memento-friendly, so to speak. “These books really reflect the interests of the consumer, and what they did and saw,” Ball said, noting that DK therefore expects the PODs to serve as keepsakes, turning the travel guide into something more than just a necessity before you leave home.