The Decline of the Paper Map

The San Francisco Chronicle charts the decline of paper maps in the face of their digital competition — a subject that we’ve seen from time to time, but not necessarily drawing the same conclusions. The Chronicle reports that paper map distribution is down, according to some AAA regional numbers, but that’s only one metric. And, despite the headline and overall gist of the article, another point — that online maps and paper maps serve different needs — is also made:

Henry Poirot, president of the International Map Trade Association, a mapping industry group, said his organization is trying to quantify the shift from paper to electronic maps and chart the future of the map business. Like Minster, Poirot said there’s a place for both paper and digital maps.
“The more people use GPS, the more they realize the importance of the paper product,” he said, explaining that paper maps are often a necessary backup for drivers.
Despite the high-tech lure of electronic gadgetry, many experts believe that paper maps still have an inherent advantage: size and scope.
“Paper maps offer big-picture geometry,” said Debra Turner, vice president of marketing for Compass Maps, a 45-year-old Modesto firm that makes road and street maps. “They can show you four or five counties, and not just the neighborhood you’re driving in.”

Another purported paper-map advantage: niche and value-added maps.

Previously: Japanese Value-Added Maps; Paeans to Paper Maps; Paper Maps: Doomed in Canada, But Not Elsewhere?