We may all be used to powering up Google maps these days when we want to know how to get from A to B, but the paper map still offers many charms that a mapping app just can’t recreate.
Paper maps have a social aspect that you just can’t recreate with your smartphone. Open up a paper map in any major tourist destination, and you’ll soon have people offering to help you find your way.
“People gather around paper maps,” says Chris Wayne, writing in Directions magazine, before asking “How many people can gather around a phone or monitor at once? A big map on a screen can be seen by hundreds or even thousands, but how easily do you interact with it?”
Perhaps this is why when it comes to 0«’map sales today, just as we are seeing with book sales, paper is thriving.
The Telegraph reports “OS sold 1.73 million paper maps in the 2017/18 financial year, up seven percent on the same period last year”.
Katherine Martinko writes passionately about how the first thing she does on arriving in a foreign city is to find a paper map.
“That map, you see, is my key to getting around the city,” she writes, “It allows me to orient myself before I’ve even set foot in the street.”
On the other hand, her phone’s GPS deprives her of this greater sense of orientation, Martinko says.
This is the beauty of a paper map: you can see the details within the context of the greater picture – a contextualization it is nigh on impossible to recreate with a digital map.
It isn’t just city orientation where a paper map excels. Historical context is also made possible. When digital maps are regularly updated to take account of new bypasses or housing conurbations, how do you see how the land used to lie? With a paper map.
Paper maps also offer advantages in more remote locations.
As Jordan Hale writes in Motherboard, “Paper maps are our friends when cell coverage is spotty, data roaming charges are high, and outlets are sparse.
Compared to urban areas, the availability of high-quality digital map data also tends to be lacking in remote areas – but there are frequently paper maps to be found that fill these off-the-grid gaps.”
While Ordnance Survey reports growing sales, the paper map renaissance can be seen elsewhere too. From decoupage trends to home interior feature walls or custom map posters it seems the paper map is the thing to be seen with this summer.