At the outset I should say I have an extreme positive bias towards this guide and struggled to be objective. The range of reasons is quite extensive: the author, Dave Flanagan, has been flatteringly attentive to my beta on obscure venues in western Ireland for almost a decade now; this will almost certainly be the only book in the lifetime of the universe where my name appears in the same list as John Gaskins and Dave Macleod; I have also self-published a guidebook and am very aware of the stress involved; bouldering in Ireland is where I started out as a climber, scrabbling around on little rocks by the Atlantic as a kid, whilst my parents spent summer after summer trying to convert an abandoned cottage into a holiday home. Actually all the regulars on this site should favour the book too, as Dave has included UKB amongst his "debt of gratitude" credits.
As the book started shipping a couple of weeks ago, there's already some feedback here
and at climbing.ie
and so far it's all very positive. The design motif will be familiar to anyone who has seen any of the guide's previous online incarnations at theshortspan.com. It works just as well in print - nicely clean and unfussy. More of a surprise is the sheer volume and quality of photos assembled in one place. There are some especially fine examples of the lonely sculpted boulders/ moody backdrop genre, which Irish scenery suits so well. I'd guess there will plenty of new visitors seduced by those images and correspondingly lots of impulse purchases of the guide. There are also some quirky contextual photos that I liked very much: close-ups of odd rock features like cobbles and boreholes and a visual geology guide in the intro section. Even the obligatory cliched approach-walk-with-pads shots are well chosen.
The book is Dave's first and the hyper-critical may detect signs of that here and there. Graphics geeks may frown at the tonal variance in the images and itch to photoshop more consistent skies or fiddle with white balances. Similarly the text layout is a little odd in places - hyphenated web URLs for example. But personally I could care less. Slightly more substantially, I did wonder whether the ambitious scope of the guide - the whole island in 260 pages! - has come at the expense of adequate location detail in a few cases. Certainly for one or two minor areas that I know well, finding the boulders without careful use of the grid references and another map source might be demanding. But my impression is that Dave has been more generous with his location maps for the major areas. Talking of which, could Glendalough be the biggest and best bouldering area in the "British" Isles? Does the UK have anything as extensive?
New English-language guides to large previously undocumented areas don't appear often. And new guides to undocumented areas a mere ferry-ride from the UK are never likely to repeat (unless there are rocks in Holland that the Dutch are keeping carefully hidden ... ). So overall "Bouldering in Ireland" is a big deal, a signature event. I'd urge everyone to go seek it out.