Is the old paper companion still relevant in an age of mobile apps? You bet.
Once upon a time, when the world was young and you could still get a pint for under a fiver, there wasn't a household in London* that did not own an A-Z.
It was the Londoner's map of choice. Famously, its creator Phyllis Pearsall reckoned to have walked every street in London to fact check the atlas. It wasn't just a map, it was London in your pocket.
Then smartphones came along.
Suddenly, large chunks of the population had free access to a zoomable, scrollable map of the capital, on a device half the size of the smallest A-Z. Better yet, inbuilt GPS furnished us with a little blob, to indicate current location. You could even get a street view and satellite view. A-Z (now owned by Collins) have kept up by releasing their own apps (iOS/Android), but the paper version is increasingly rare.
Paper maps are still very useful in situations with low mobile coverage, but do they still have a place in a 5G-irradiated city? The answer seems to be an emphatic YES, at least according to Londonist's facebook followers.
"Use mine every day!"
Suzanne likes the bigger scale of the printed page: "I still have mine and use it regularly as you can see a wide area at a glance, something impossible on a small screen. I used it more than ever when planning walks from home during the various lockdowns, looking at different routes to walk to join up green spaces."
Reader Allison mentions another advantage... you can easily scrawl your own notes on a paper version. "I love my paper A-Z - I have 2 so my old one from 1996 that's got pages dropping out, scribbled notes in it & highlighter pen on some routes from when I lived there, no longer particularly portable but can't bear to particularly with it, and a more modern one that's not falling to bits."
Anita hits on a happy side-effect of paper maps: "I love a real map and the memories of all the places I have been." Paper does that somehow. We remember tracing our routes across the streets in a way that just doesn't happen on a screen.
John dislikes digital maps: "The apps are thoroughly inadequate. If they weren't, I would toss the paper one in the bin." He doesn't elaborate.
Sam still uses the A-Z for navigation while on the road: "[I] have one in map holder on motorcycle tank in front of me. Love London A to Z books. Love it. Learn from it too, unlike just following what the voice satnav tells you to do."
Bill's is an old friend: "Still use my ex courier one from the 90s....it's battered, been all over country, but never once said 'Turn around where possible...'".
Iris also remembers the former era fondly: "I came to London in 1967. Lived in Earls Court. Everyone had an A-Z permanently on their person. How else could Auzzies, Canadians and people like me, from the North, get about. No mobile phones or sat nav. Good days."
At Londonist, we find the A-Z index is a useful tool for quickly answering esoteric questions, like "How many High Streets are there in London" or "What are London's rudest street names". Otherwise, we have to confess to not having used the map for navigation in almost 20 years. We still keep that battered, dog-eared copy, though. It's part of being a Londoner.
*Unverified hyperbole, but you know what we mean.