These days everyone has access to digital maps. From apps on a cell phone to GPS systems in vehicles, people can always find a map to figure out where they are going. Before these digital mapping systems, the only option was a paper map. With the rise of technology, though, some may begin to wonder if paper maps are a relic of the past. Is there still a reason to keep them around?

New Technology

Digital maps are more than maps, as reported by USC Online. They can provide real-time information along with showing you how to get where you want to go. They point out construction areas, report weather conditions, and even give traffic updates. This technology allows you to get turn by turn audible directions, too. It is much easier to use than paper maps, which you had to navigate yourself. All you do is put in an address or destination and the map brings up the information you need. In addition, digital maps are updated automatically. Paper maps have the issue of needing to be replaced often to stay current, which means buying a new one.

The Decline of Paper Maps

It became noticeable around 2003 that the demand for paper maps was going down. This was largely due to the rise of technology with GPS units becoming more affordable. In the years since, technology has become even more advanced with most people having smartphones with mapping capabilities. Paper map printing was reduced to save money, which is still continuing with many suppliers making the decision to stop providing maps completely, like the state of Washington, which quit printing them in 2009. Many people don’t even think twice before heading out on a trip without a paper map because they completely rely on their digital mapping technology.

The Saving Grace

Paper maps, however, have some advantages over digital maps that can’t be ignored. To begin with, they play into nostalgia. Many people remember family road trips where the trusty map became the tour guide and there was always the fight to fold it back up properly.

Another benefit is they allow you to chart your own course. GPS systems are designed to lead you down the quickest or shortest path, usually along main roadways. They don’t consider going “off the beaten path.” You can’t really explore and get to see the sights that you only find when you venture off the main roads.

Finally, technology can be tricky. Sometimes signals get lost or dropped, which is a huge problem when it comes to digital maps. If you lose your signal, you lose your map. Technology isn’t always reliable either. Glitches or other issues could lead you astray. Without a paper map, you’re lost.

The future of paper maps may still be in question. However, it is hard to deny that they are still useful. When technology fails, a paper map will always be there. While they certainly aren’t perfect, they do offer a safety net. So, even if you always have your cell phone map app on hand, it’s a good idea to still keep a handy paper map around just in case. 

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