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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Part 3: IMIA Conference

Two delegates holding a sample page from Earth Platinum (World largest Atlas ever)

Challenges of Print Publications

In comparison to 2010 conference, this year's conference had a focus on the situation of publication industry and role of cartographers in an increasing digital age. Today's world, the consumers of map prefer to view the maps online and the need to purchase of guide books (one of the staple industries of cartographers) have plummeted. On top of that, there is a new trend where the consumers wants to personalize their maps as their souvenirs and no longer to be dictated by publication industries or paid authors.

 In response to that, a presenter from Canada (Map Sherpa.com) presented customized solutions for publishing industry. He identified the shift of retail industries: retail industry (physically) to e-tail (electronic retail) to (M)e-tail (customized retail products for the consumer). This shift has impacted the map publication industry, retailers and map consumers. The presenter a business solution whereby it links customers, maps, publishers and retailers to produce personalized maps for consumers. Definetely, many publisher delegates took notice on this matter.
  
OnDemand is MapSherpa service for creating custom high quality maps and it links publishers (content) and retailers (selling products). I believe under this service, MapSherpa offer three type of solutions consisting of different levels of custom mapping. Users can determine the scale of the map, the size of the map and request for laminating or value-add products for the purchase. Some of the solutions require the publishers or retailers to have grasp on web knowledge. This simple business model has one plus point: MapSherpa will receive profit if the custom map product is sold through these solutions. If no selling, MapSherpa do not gain anything.

World Largest Atlas Ever

Publication Manager (at the pulpit) and the sample editing map of Asia
Examining reality, there are more users of maps than ever in history but geography illiteracy remains low. The expansion of usage of maps was largely attributed to internet and it raises the question the relevance of creating a paper atlas. The Publication Manager throw to all delegates including me: Why wouldn't you want to be part of production of the World Largest Atlas ever? This is to counter to the question: Is there any relevance for paper maps?

 Around 350 years ago, the world largest atlas was produced, it was a time capsule of the Euro-centric global view. Fast forward to 2010-2012, Earth Platinum is a time capsule of mapping technologies and how view the world as of 2012. This atlas (limited in numbers) is expected to last for next 350 years (huge responsibility for the curators). The atlas is 6 feet high and 9 feet wide. The immensity of the size (the weight is around 200 kilos) allows the user to have an amazing experience of the world we live in. Using orthographic projection (on the insistence of the Managing Cartographer), physical maps of Continents present space-like view (enhanced due to immense size). This immense size gives more space for cartographers to add words. The longest name is 84 words, NZ mountain and fortunately for cartographers, the place was close to sea. The shortest name was A in Norway, which is cartographic ideal name where text positioning is not an issue. Geographx, NZ premier hillshading mapping company provided well balanced adjusted mountain rendering for the maps.

 Producing an atlas also would involve a lot of political decision making. This includes identifying disputed borders, naming conventions and others. Due to neutrality of the atlas production, quite number of countries would not want to purchase the atlas since the borders do not fit the definitions of certain parties. This explains why the atlas was not printed in China due to scrutiny being imposed on publications there. On the question why Australia do not have one, Publication Manager said it was due to legal reasons here. Any book published in Australia needs to be submitted to 4 insitutions (National Library, Parliamentary Library, State Library and University Library) for free. This would cost him $400 000 in profit loss. On top of that, the curators of this atlas is expected to keep them for next 200-350 years (big duty). However, he is working on getting funding to bring the atlas to Australia.

 His presentation exudes his passion in hardcopy publications and he emphasized the unique experience in making and feeling this massive publications. The Earth Platinum won best award during this conference and will be submitted for global IMIA competition soon.

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