October 08, 2023.

Does the Atlas of Design profit from contributors?

The Atlas of Design is published by the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), a not-for-profit professional organization for mapmakers and people who love maps. Both the Atlas and NACIS are entirely volunteer-run, and the Atlas has a rotating team of volunteer editors. Each biennial volume aims to inspire readers—both within the field of cartography and outside it—toward new understandings of design, and the power that a well-crafted map can have. The Atlas also directly furthers one of the organization’s objectives—to promote, improve, and support the use of cartographic materials through education, and to promote graphicacy.

When the first volume of the Atlas was published in 2012, it was planned as a single, limited run, with one of our goals being to produce the book “without losing money.” It was not envisioned as a continuing, modest or partial source of income for the organization. We have maintained a pricing structure that does not provide wholesale discounts and we primarily only sell through our own Atlas web store, which keeps the prices as affordable as possible and keeps others from profiting from the volumes. Now with more than a decade of consistent sales and demand, and the expectation that we reprint and stock past volumes indefinitely for new readers, the organization has invested increasing funds into maintaining the series over time.

While the goal and purpose of the Atlas remain the same, we’ve had to adjust how we price and finance new volumes and reprints over the years as the Atlas evolved into a long-term initiative for NACIS. The biggest difference is that we are now sinking considerable printing investment into long-term stock of the books, which will not be realized for several years.

Net income generated through sales of the Atlas of Design is used toward production costs of future Atlas volumes and reprints—including printing, binding, warehousing, copyediting, and honorariums for foreword writers. While any income beyond these needs is modest, over the lifetime of the series there has been a small net surplus, which is directed into other NACIS initiatives—including student [awards] (https://nacis.org/awards/) and scholarships, travel grants for the NACIS Annual Meeting, and the biennial Corlis Benefideo Award.

It has been our policy not to financially compensate contributors who have their work selected for the Atlas. We realize that for many, cartography is not just a passion but a livelihood, and we understand if some authors are not willing to have their work featured gratis. If you are uncomfortable with having your work featured in the Atlas without compensation, we understand, and ask that you kindly refrain from submitting your work. Contributors retain full rights to the images of their maps and the essays they write for the Atlas, but grant NACIS the right to use them solely for this publication and publicity related to the publication (i.e. pictures of the printed pages and sections of maps used to discuss the Atlas).

The Atlas of Design is a celebration of maps. It brings attention to exceptional examples of cartography in the world today. As we continue forward with this endeavor, we want to recognize the valuable contributions the cartographic community has made to this series, and we hope to continue to earn the support this community has given us by providing a world-class showcase of work in our profession.