Paper Maps: Doomed in Canada, But Not Elsewhere?

Capital News, the student newspaper of Carleton University’s journalism school, has a story about the imminent demise of paper topographic maps in Canada. (I suspect that link might not be permanent.) There’s nothing really new in this story: the Centre for Topographic Information’s director says that paper maps are obsolete; World of Maps’s Brad Green says, not so fast — just like the previous coverage of this story (see previous entries: Canadian Topo Map Update: CBC Coverage; Canadian Topo Map Update: Globe and Mail Coverage; Canadian Government Abandoning Paper Topo Maps?). Via Cartography.

Meanwhile, despite this move, it appears that the emerging conventional (if counterintuitive) wisdom is that digital mapping will actually increase the demand for paper maps, not decrease it. (In the same way, I suppose, that “paperless” offices actually increased the output of paper.) See, for example, this article from the Albany, NY, Business Review:

“We are concluding that the products you get on the Internet, such as MapQuest, are helping to educate people about maps,” she said. “So people who have never used a map before are inclined to check out something on MapQuest and it appears they are becoming acclimated to maps and going out and buying them.” …
Even dashboard GPS navigation systems wound up making people want maps more, instead of supplanting them, David Fisk said. …
“We’re seeing increases in all sales in all our product groups,” Chris Fisk said. “People are still buying paper maps and atlases, and probably more than ever before.”

Via All Points Blog.

The same point was also made by Jeff Thurston in this post in January: more printed maps, not less. Ed Parsons agrees.

Digital mapping is raising the profile of mapping, full stop; it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game. That decision to get out of paper topo maps looks a bit more shortsighted now, doesn’t it? But then we’re talking about the federal government, now, aren’t we?