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Asia Minute: No More Printed Maps in Australia?


If you’re driving and looking for directions, odds are good that you’ll use some kind of GPS or other electronic guidance. While the days of the paper map have been in decline for some time, a new milestone was announced this week in Australia.

Demand for paper maps isn’t what it used to be. That’s pretty much a universal truth in the Asia Pacific and anywhere else in the world.

It’s the reason that Australia’s national geographic agency announced this week that it will stop printing official government topographic maps.

But in some quarters, that announcement has sparked an angry backlash.

Australian broadcaster ABC quotes a tour guide who leads wilderness walks as saying the paper maps provide a level of detail and safety not duplicated by electronic versions.

The Straits Times quotes another veteran bushwalker who’s been on rescue missions for hikers as saying that a lack of a paper map can be dangerous in the bush. Adding “you don’t always get a good signal, especially at the bottom of gullies. You don’t always know exactly where you are.”

Large parts of Australia are covered by dense bush, and there are many isolated areas without cell phone coverage.

The folks at the government agency Geosciences Australia stress that their maps will remain available online, and are available for downloading and printing — at no charge.

But critics say home-printing often doesn’t reflect the level of detail of the professionally printed topographic maps. For example, contour lines showing how steep a hill is may be more difficult to read.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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