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Rand McNally is known for its road atlases but also offers an interactive travel website and GPS devices; it declined to comment on how many maps it’s printing these days.
Carrier, now a consultant in the mapping and travel publishing industry, said the additional services from traditional mapping companies show the incredible potential in the industry.
"There’s no question in the U.S. that traditional road maps are diminished," he said. "But there are other areas of the map industry that are thriving and even growing."
Charlie Regan, who runs the maps division for National Geographic, said the company has sold more paper map products in the past three years than it has ever sold since launching the division in 1915. He attributed it to customers learning to appreciate good map data — and also noted that sales of international maps have remained consistent, and that sales of recreational hiking maps are on the rise.
"It’s almost like a golden age in mapping. More people than ever before in history are using maps every day," he said. "For me, that’s fantastic, and it’s an opportunity."
What most people agree on is that paper road maps will not go away quietly, like pay phones and phone books. Chris Turner, a collector from Jeffersonville, Ind., shook his head at the notion of paper maps becoming obsolete.
"With a GPS or other mapping system that you might use, you feel like you’re beholden to the GPS lady. You know? ‘Turn left here. Recalculating.’ Well, with a map, you can trace your route and you can decide for yourself still where you want to go.
"And if you want to vary from the GPS lady, so be it," he said. "But you’re armed with that knowledge from that map to do that."
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