Digital versus Paper Map Prices

Digital map prices are now either cheaper, much cheaper or very comparable to paper prices.

It’s hard to make an exact comparison. Your own personal circumstances for using a map, the area covered/desired, and the promotions available on paper or digital at the time can swing these numbers. Do you want HDor SD digital maps? On the paper side, waterproof or standard paper?

Finally there is personal preference. I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Kindle for reading books, yet for periodicals which I don’t tend to read linearly I still prefer the paper format.

For my comparison, I am going to consider HD digital maps as these are in fact the data the OS prints the paper maps from. On the paper side, I will look at standard paper.


The main conclusions of this article are:


For Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger mapping, for small areas digital is cheaper than paper, and on large areas it is much cheaper.
For Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer maps for small areas digital and paper prices are now fairly well aligned – individual comparisons can swing it either way. For full country coverage, digital is much cheaper than paper.


Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger mapping


The royalties for Landranger mapping have been constant for a long period of time. The one major change that happened quite a few years ago, is that the OS removed the minimum royalty. This minimum used to mean that selling 1 sq km of map returned the same royalty as selling 1/10th of Great Britain. Hence we never used to sell small products.

It would appear that getting a 35% discount on the paper map price online is pretty easy. So let’s use £4.54 as the paper map price.

There are 204 maps in the series, so that would bring a price of £926.16. I’m sure there is most likely further discount available on that, but it’s still a long way from GB 50k HD at £120.

Looking at smaller areas, a Landranger map is 40km*40km, so 1600 sq km. Our cheapest Cut-Your-Own is £9 for 8000 sq km. 8000/1600 = 5, so you would get the equivalent of five maps for £9, which would buy just two of the paper variety.


Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Mapping


The story here is quite a lot more complex on the history of royalties. The Ordnance Survey’s pricing until very November last year was linear per sq km, but extremely expensive. In November we got a massive price reduction of over 90% on a full country, but a much smaller reduction for small areas.

It would appear that it’s quite easy to get a paper Explorer map online for £5.19.

There are 408 Explorer maps in the series, so that would be a cost of £2117.52, which is much more expensive than our GB 25k Pro HD package which costs just £330.

For smaller areas, a standard Explorer map is 20km * 20km, so 400 sq km. Looking at our Cut-Your-Own, 250 sq km costs £3.60, so looking at this as a price per sq km, its 1.3p for paper, and 1.44p for digital. So on the very smallest areas, paper maps work out about 10% cheaper per sq km.

However, it’s easy to swing this last calculation. If you choose an Explorer map with a lot of water, but only choose land tiles when using Cut-Your-Own, digital will work out cheaper. The other major difference is if the area you want spans across two Explorer maps you have to buy both maps in paper, whilst with digital you can Cut-Your-Own and buy just what you need.