Geoscience to cease printing large-scale maps

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It will be the end of an era at Geoscience Australia next month as the government agency ends its production of printed large-scale topographic maps and moves to digital.

End of an era: Geoscience Australia is ditching printed large-scale topographic maps. 
(Image: Geoscience Australia)
End of an era: Geoscience Australia is ditching printed large-scale topographic maps.
(Image: Geoscience Australia)

The large-scale maps (1:50 000, 1:100 000, 1:250 000, and over 1:500 000), which are used for high-level planning rather than on-the-ground activities such as hiking and navigating, will switch to solely online from 13 December.

Dr Martine Woolf, acting chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division at Geoscience Australia, says the move is due to falling demand.

“Over a number of years, we’ve seen a rapid decline in demand for hardcopy maps and we can no longer sustain the storage, maintenance and delivery costs of our paper map services", she said.

“We understand people really value hard copy maps – we also love maps here at Geoscience Australia, and we’re committed to providing the best information available. There are a number of commercial and state-run services that can provide printed topographic information across the same scale as the maps we previously provided in hard copy,” said Woolf.

According to Woolf, digital maps offer many advantages over printed maps, including access to up-to-date topographical information.

“We believe the future of topographic maps is in providing accurate and freely available information for anyone, anywhere to create their own maps – for example, our maps are covered by Creative Commons and can be recreated by commercial businesses with the attribution to Geoscience Australia.

“If people need a printed hardcopy map at short notice, they can also download our maps and take them to a local provider to print at the size and quality to suit their needs,” she said.

Print21 spoke to a Geoscience Australia spokesperson, who confirmed that the agency uses commercial printers to restock published items in its physical map library.

“Printing method over the last 20 years was always offset, through commercial printers. Specifications were included with the quote invitations, in the past seven colours, and later it changed to four-colour CMYK.

“Prints were done on 106 gsm paper, later reduced to 97 gsm to facilitate easier folding of maps. Print files were supplied to printers on portable digital media in the past, later moved to email/digital transmission,” the spokesperson said, noting that as printing jobs were commissioned on demand, the number of maps printed per year would vary depending on stock level.

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