| Roland Boehm |
BERLIN (dpa) – So, where exactly is Timbuktu?
There was a time when the only way to check such a fact was to reach for an atlas. That seems old-fashioned in this internet age, when Google Earth can virtually take a person to Mali, or any of many other points, sometimes with a 3-D view.
But book publishers argue that the printed atlas is not dead, despite all the satellite photos and 3-D imagery.
One of their main arguments is that an atlas is tangible, says Nicole Wieffen, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Bibliographical Institute, a German reference-book publisher. She concedes that demand is “not like it was 20 years ago”, but says there are still buyers, even among the younger generation. Some atlases are now available in digital form and are usable offline.
And remember: A printed atlas is still accessible if both the power and your device battery fail, unlike its digital counterparts.
Atlas enthusiasts also argue that Internet maps only fill in details for parts of the world in which large numbers of people show interest.
Other parts – predominantly in Africa – are given short shrift online or have out-of-date information, says Glenn Riedel, the director of cartography at Kosmos Verlag, a German publisher which just got into the mapping business.
However, Google doesn’t take such criticism to heart.
“Every day, there are thousands of updates added to Google Maps to keep our map data up-to-date,” says a company spokesman.
It’s also easy to lose perspective online. Zoom in or out once too often or employ an ill-advised swipe of the finger and it’s possible to quickly lose track of where one was looking or where the site being viewed is in relation to other sites.
Maps in atlases tend to use a standard scale, so it’s easy to get perspective for distances or larger areas. Geographical features are also clearly marked. Online, those designations can sometimes fail to appear or get shunted to the wrong spot.
The key thing to remember is that printed and online maps are not necessarily in competition. There is room for both.