Paper Maps Amid the GPS Boom

Posted on July 10, 2012


Previously the preferred method for road navigation, paper maps are now facing an uncertain future.  The increase in reliance on GPS and digital mapping devices has caused many to cast their paper maps aside, and many map companies have started printing fewer and fewer paper maps.  While many still use paper maps for navigation, many others regard them as mementos and pieces of nostalgia.  As a publisher of both physical and digital maps, MarketMAPS takes a look at the condition of paper maps amidst the GPS boom.  Free roadside maps boomed between the 1920s and 1970s, when oil companies worked with a handful of publishers. As major highways were being built, these maps became synonymous with the possibilities of the open road. At a recent map collectors’ association exposition at an Embassy Suites hotel outside Columbus, Ohio, old road maps were sold and allowed collectors a glimpse into an era of romanticized advertising—brightly colored paper maps promising the sunny beaches of Florida, the mountains of Montana and Chicago’s famous skyline.  Dick Bloom, a founding member of the group, has been collecting maps since he was 10. The retired airline pilot from Danville, KY, said there used to be an element of surprise in road trips.  “The paper map was all you had back then,” Bloom, 74, said from his merchandise table. “It was the only way to get around. It was a lot more of an adventure back then. Life was much more of an adventure.”

While many still appreciate the legacy of the paper map, fewer people are actually using them.  Websites such as MapQuest and Google Maps simplified trip planning, and affordable GPS devices and built-in navigation on smartphones transformed it.  Transportation agencies around the country began noticing, printing fewer maps to cut department costs or just acknowledging that public demand is down. Reprioritizing their spending amid times of falling revenue, transportation departments could be placing paper maps on the chopping block, said Bob Cullen, spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Officials in Oklahoma and Ohio also say map printing is down, and Washington state discontinued them altogether by 2009 because of budget shortfalls.

But in other states, printing has remained steady because maps remain popular at visiting centers. In Missouri, officials say they’re printing about 1.5 million maps for a two- to three-year period, consistent with printing from a decade ago. Officials in Connecticut , Mississippi and Nebraska also say printing has remained the same. While it’s unclear why some areas are seeing a heavy decrease in paper map users when other areas have not, it is clear that map formats need to adapt with the times.  At MarketMAPS, we offer our maps in four unique formats.  For small-scale or personal use, we have maps up to 11×17 inches.  For a larger, more aesthetic display, we have laminated and mounted wall maps up to 9×12 feet.  For navigation and delivery route planning we print map books that contain street or ZIP Code indexes, as well as a professional spiral bind.  MarketMAPS was one of the first companies to offer digital maps and today our digital maps are used by consumers as well as businesses in almost every industry—including nearly 100% of Fortune 500 Companies.  Enter our promotional code for your online order today and receive 25% off of your digital map.

Contact MarketMAPS today and discover how our 4 unique map formats help to better suit your needs and applications.

Visit Us on the Web at

Or Call Us at 1-888-434-6277

Image 1 via, Image 2 via, Image 3 via, Image 4 via

Posted in: Business