‘The Death of the Paper Map’

On the occasion of the CSAA’s announcement that it’s getting out of the business of publishing paper maps, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Caille Millner has this to say:

I am saddened, but not surprised, about the death of the paper map, about its slow-but-sure eclipse by Mapquest and GPS and all of these other digitized forms that allow people to persist in their delusions: their delusions that the only “starting points” and “destinations” that matter are the ones relevant to their immediate needs, their delusions that the only purpose of a map is to decide where you should turn right or left. And when the time comes when an insistence on using paper maps, and globes, and atlases draws the frustration and impatience of other people, leads them to believe that the person in question is “out of touch” or failing to “keep up with the times” or “slowing us down,” then I will gladly take up those mantles, and you had best hope that others do too.
Take it from someone who is far less emotional about this subject than I am: Curt Sumner, the executive director for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. “There are a lot of uses for which just data, digitized map data, are OK,” he told me. “It’s just not good for every use.” When I asked him for a few examples of where digitized data was creating headaches for the professional surveyors he represents, he offered small examples like water lines, fire patterns, and right-of-way property rights. He mentioned that his organization had a rider on a bill in Congress “going forward right now” to require the preservation of documentation of monuments that show right-of-way access (railroad tracks, for instance) because “when the old maps get destroyed, there’s no way to determine who has the right of way.” Then there the “engineers and fire departments, who really need more accurate information than what’s stored on geographic information systems. You know, to build infrastructure.” He added that many “official” centers for maps — county recorders’ offices around the country, for instance — are in the process of digitizing their maps, and not all of the old maps are being kept.

Previously: CSAA Getting Out of the Paper Map Business; Why Paper Maps Are Still Produced; The Decline of the Paper Map; Decline of the Road Map.

Update: Chad adds an interesting point to the paper maps question, in the context of using a GPS: “What do you do if you get no signal, or your batteries run out, or it breaks?”