I’m pretty relentless about adopting new technologies and usually unregretful about the ones left behind. In particular I have grave doubts about whether the “book”, I mean in its paper form, has or even deserves a future. But there are two sides to this story.
Here we have two cartographic renditions of more or less the same piece of the planet; one via Google Maps on a Nexus S, the other on page 101 of the Ninth Comprehensive Edition of the Times Atlas of the World.
The picture fails to convey the immense size of the Atlas; after dinner this evening, five people shared it comfortably for a lesson in New Zealand geography. It’s opened rarely enough that a heady ink-and-paper aroma drifts up off its pages when you turn them. The amount of information squeezed into a two-page spread like this is staggering; Edward Tufte has argued that quality cartography is without equal in visual information density.
I may be sort of paying homage here to publishing-as-it-was, but the question occurs to me: Is this impressive-looking book actually considered good? The useful-but-too-short Wikipedia entry suggests that yes, it’s not bad, and that this Ninth was the last edition which was not completely produced by computer cartography. It links to the book’s own site, which unlike the book is ordinary and information-thin.
I love maps; always have. And I use the electric maps on my phone and computer a thousand times for every time the Atlas leaves the shelf. But still, it seems like it would be terrible if it weren’t there.