Lonely Planet (LP) has introduced a new line of guidebooks, the Discover series, including this one. To me they seem similar to the DK series - lots of color photographs, less text, attractively designed, glossy paper, usually one topic per open pair of pages, but that one topic is covered quite well. Color is used for the edges of pages, to make it easy to find a section for the part of the country you are visiting. Overall the graphic design and use of color of whitespace lends both excitement and useability to the guide.
Unfortunately, there appears to be confusion about this new LP series. Although each LP Discover so far covers one country, it does NOT replace LP Country Guides. Some people have bought it thinking it is a new look for an updated country guide and are not happy with it - "This is horrible, this is like a travel advertisement, I'll never buy another LP again, etc.". Needless to say, it is not for everyone. Fortunately, you have a lot of choices in the best guide for YOU, so...
WHICH IS THE RIGHT GUIDE FOR YOU?
If you want to visit Peru, you have several choices. Aside from three LP guides, there are guides from Eyewitness, Frommer's, National Geographic, Moon, Mobi, Fodor's, Rough Guide, Viva, and probably others. For this review, I have looked at the three Amazon guides only. A good way to decide which is best is to go to your library and look them all over.
Lonely Planet South America: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide) has comprehensive but abbreviated coverage of every country. This would be a good choice if you were visiting several countries without spending a lot of time in most of them and weight is an issue (for example, if you are backpacking).
The traditional Lonely Planet Peru (Country Travel Guide) is a fine choice if you will be spending more time in one country in some depth. It has the most information of any of the books. However, it too is not for everyone; some people complain that this style is all text and not very exciting. There are SOME color pictures, and plenty of maps, but it is indeed mostly text. That information is what people buy it for.
Then there is this new Lonely Planet Discover Peru (Full Color Country Travel Guide). It has enough information for a casual traveler, but nowhere near as much as the LP country guide. It is excellent for doing research ahead of any trip to decide your priorities for where you will go. It is well designed for someone who wants to absorb a lot of information quickly via pictures, enough information to make informed choices on where to go.
As I sit here in Lima, preparing to go out for the day, I have all three guides with me. Which do I choose? Hands down: the LP Peru country guide (NOT LP Discover Peru). I don't need the pictures or the heavy glossy paper as I walk around; I do need facts. Sure, it covers the whole country, but so far there is no Lima City Guide, which would be my choice if it existed and I could have any guide I wanted.
I think that looking at the Discover guide before you have finalized your plans is ideal, but when it's time to go, bring either the LP Peru country guide (if you're spending significant time around Peru and maybe one other country) or the South America Guide (if you are going to hop around several countries). If will only visit briefly, the Discover guide should be enough. It does provide essential information to getting to places well outside of the city, such as Cusco/Machu Picchu.
I like the LP Country Guides because they have similar organizations, so if you are used to one, you can easily find the information you need in any of them. But I love the Discover guide for learning about a country that's new to me, or for finding places I have not discovered in an otherwise familiar country.
Having read LPDP and LPP, and the Peru section of LPSA, I think they are all good guides, but they are different guides for different travel plans.
COMPARING THE GUIDES: IN DETAIL
Note: LPDP means the LP Discover Peru book. LPP means the LP Peru Country Guide. LPSA is the LP South America guide.
Peru Page count: LPDP 372, LPP 580, LPSA 112 pages.
For Cusco area and Machu Piccu, LPDP 64, LPP 76, LPSA 20 pages.
For Puno, LPDP lists 8 restaurants and 3 bars, LPP lists 10 eating options and 3 bars, LPSA lists 5 restaurants and 1 bar.
Lima Museums described: LPDP 7, LPP 17, LPSA 5. LPP has the longest descriptions - up to a few paragraphs - then LPDP (one or two paragraphs) and LPSA (some one paragraph discusesses two museums). Museo de la Electricidad and other lesser-known museums are not covered in any of the guides.
The essential difference between LPDP and the other two is that the average page has about 50% taken up with pictures and maps, whereas the other two have an average of about 10% maps and pictures, leaving a lot more room for text. LPDP is printed on heavier, glossy paper, and though it has 64% as many pages as LPP, it weighs about the same.
If you are planning to spend 5 days to see Lima and Machu Picchu, any of the guides will suffice.
CONTENTS: 372 pages
Peru Overview: 47 pages
Lima: 40 pages
Nazca, Arequipa, the South: 42 pages
Puno and Lake Titicaca: 24 pages
Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and around: 64 pages
Huaraz, Trujillo and the North: 50 pages
Iquitos & Amazon Basin: 32 pages
Misc Information Listings: 48 pages
This book is brand new and I received a review copy 3 days before I left for South America. I have not noticed any problems in what it says, but my first visit is relatively short here. I think the book is a very good compromise of less information to allow more pictures, but for me, the country guide is a better choice when I am in the country. I read this book first to get a quick overview of the parts of the country I would be visiting.