I used to purchase many game guides, usually from Half Price Books because, well, they were half price. I originally subscribed to Gamespot because of their game guides which you could only download in pdf format if you were a subscriber. Now, if they even bother to make a guide, all of their guides are HTML format, for the console crowd to access I suppose.
I don’t think I have used their guides in a while, even when I have them because I have come to prefer text guides where you can delete the sections you have completed. I have found this makes it easier for me to avoid searching for where I am in the guide when playing a game. Also, I think since playing Baldur’s Gate 2 I discovered their guides are pretty lame compared to what dedicated gamers create. Gamespot’s guides may show you the main quests to finish the game, but in RPGs like Baldur’s Gate there are many side quests and hidden areas; hard core game walkthrough creators have documented them all for you
What made me think of this topic was that I just found I had purchased a game guide for STALKER:SOC. I have been enjoying the game using a text walkthrough when needed. Just flipping through the Prima paper guide there are many things left out that were included in the free walkthrough I am using.
Now I must say I did like the Fallout 3 Collector’s Edition Guide and purchased the same for Fallout: New Vegas. Other Bethesda games like Oblivion and Skyrim have guides just as thick (hundreds of pages). I even found a great Gamespot guide of Morrowind by Desslock that was around 300 pages (this was probably back when Gamespot cared about making guides for PC games). So there are good guides in paper and other formats.
My final verdict would be check sites like Gamespot or Game FAQS (where many user-created guides listed on Gamespot are stored) first to see what is available before putting down $20-30 on a paper guide. Sometimes free is better than paid for. But I want to thank all of the hard working gamers who take the time to make these guides for the rest of us. You have helped me many times and I am grateful.