The Paper Map Revolution

In the past ten years Ordnance Survey paper map sales have fallen, in line with the rest of the publishing industry. Yet in 2014, Britain’s mapping agency reversed this trend with sales in 2014 up by 3%, with figures for the financial year (2014-15) showing an even more impressive 7% increase.

OS makes over 10,000 daily updates to a database of more than 460 million unique geographic features, which are then presented on a range of different digital and paper maps.

Nick Giles, Managing Director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, says: "It’s great to see that sales of paper maps are increasing. We understand that the increase isn’t huge; however, the significant news is the downward trend has been reversed.

"There’s an emotional attachment to OS paper maps. People love their iconic design and the feel of them in their hands. The detail contained in OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps gives users greater security and reassurance.

"Since the turn of the century we have seen an explosion in the availability of mapping through the Internet and mobile devices. Internet mapping has been great at making maps a part of daily life, but too often it doesn’t carry the detail our customers now demand. There are times when accurate geographic information is vital. This is especially true when exploring remote and rural areas, and in terms of safety and emergency situations. Hopefully people are recognising the vital role which OS paper maps play in supporting digital devices."

Following OS’s 2015 brand modernisation, over 600 of its paper map covers are being updated. Members of the public are invited to submit their photographs into OS Photofit – a competition to find new images for each cover. For more information visit

Today, paper map sales only account for 5% of OS’s annual revenue, but this hasn’t stopped the national map makers from investing in paper maps.

Recent developments include the Active range of weatherproof maps and the launch two years ago of the popular Custom Made maps, sales of which rose last year by 12%. Custom Made maps allow users to create a bespoke map of an area, complete with their own cover images.

OS is also exploring plans to bring new and old maps to life through augmented reality and continuing its development and experimentation with maps for the colour blind.

Nick continues: "It’s clear to us that the paper map can work alongside digital mapping, playing an important role in creating adventures and helping users explore every inch of Great Britain. We are always looking at ways of improving all of our products and as technology develops it delivers new opportunities. There are lots of innovations, such as augmented reality, smart paper and new production technology, which have the potential to change the paper map market."

For further information on how mapping can support your adventure visit