Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on 3 December 2020
Here is my critical review of the 3rd edition (2019) of the Oxford Student Atlas for India.
a) The publishers have used recent Indian and international data sources (2011-2018), making the maps up-to-date.
b) The spellings of the names of the places have been updated (I was able to check this for places in Karnataka). But the publishers mention their sources for spellings to be “various”.
c) There are 56 pages of maps of India among which 36 pages have thematic maps. The latter provides useful information for a student on various aspects of India – climate, vegetation, economy, industry etc.
2. Design and layout:
a) The political maps use clear and contrasting colours for different states with 5 levels of colour intensity to denote different population levels. The physical maps use 10 contour levels for areas above sea level and 3 contour levels for those below the sea level. These make the maps clear and easy to understand.
b) The region-wise physical maps of India have inset histograms and line plots of annual variation of temperature and rainfall at two key locations in the region, giving the reader a quick picture of the general climate in the region.
c) The projections used for different maps have been chosen with care, depending on the region:
Lambert Conical Orthomorphic – India and her neighbours, China and Mongolia Region
Lambert Equal Area – Asia, South America
Platte Carre/Geographic – West Asia
Bonne – Asia (thematic), North and South Korea, Japan
Lambert – Europe
Conical with Two Standard Parallels – British Isles
Azimuthal Equal Area – South-East Asia, Eurasia, North America, Africa
Lambert Equal Area Azimuthal – Oceania
Polar Stereographic – North and South poles
Robinson – Oceans and the World (regular and thematic)
Modified Gall – World (thematic)
Sinusoidal – World (watersheds)
This allows presenting the maps with minimal distortion of area, which in some cases are conformal (Lambert), and in some cases are a good compromise for an overall view (Robinson).
3. Quality of print and binding:
a) The paper appears to be 75 gsm showing negligible bleed through, making the maps clear to read.
b) The quality of printing is nice and sharp, with consistent color reproduction throughout. This stands out and becomes immediately apparent as soon as one opens the atlas.
c) The paperback binding makes the atlas easy to handle. The hot melt EVA glue used for the spine is well suited for the purpose.
I received the item within 2 days of ordering through regular Amazon route (non-prime), so the delivery speed was good.
5. Additional features:
a) The two poster-size maps (roughly 80 cm x 54 cm) are of good print quality, and are useful to get a full picture of India or the world with good detail.
b) The poster-size maps are attached to the inside back cover with a thin double sided masking tape, making it possible to pull them out carefully without damaging the paper.
At Rs. 211 (discounted, with a cover price of Rs. 315), the atlas offers a wealth of information with good print quality for a reasonable price.
a) Page 6 – The last sentence in the section titled “Exploring the Universe” reads, “The Universe probably came into existence about 10-20 billion years ago”. Since this atlas was published in 2019, and measurements of the age of universe as of 2018 had found it to be 13.8 billion years (with an uncertainty of 0.02 billion years), the publishers should have reported this value instead of being unnecessarily uncertain by 10 billion years.
b) Page 6 – The last sentence in the section titled “The Solar System” reads, “All the planets along with their satellites orbit the Sun in the anti-clockwise direction (if viewed from above)”. What is "above" in space? Perhaps it would’ve been better to say “… orbit the Sun in the same direction as Sun rotates about its axis”. At this point, “prograde” and “retrograde” orbits could’ve been mentioned.
c) Page 7 – The introductory section titled “The Planet Earth” should have had a sentence or two explaining the meaning of equinoxes. The section also fails to inform the reader about the significance of the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. The accompanying figure can also be improved significantly by labeling the axis tilt angle and showing the brighter and darker sides of earth (facing toward and away from the sun) during different seasons.
d) Since this is a student atlas for India, I feel that among the introductory sections on the universe, solar system and Earth, there should’ve been a brief history of the official surveys of Indian maps leading to the present edition, with key events and people on a timeline.
e) Physical maps of union territories should’ve accompanied their political maps (pages 26-29), as has been done for other Indian regions.
f) The region-wise physical maps for Asia misses out a map of the region of “Stans” (Kazakhstan, to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan), which should’ve been included, given the region’s importance to India.
g) The region-wise physical maps of Asia, British Isles, Eurasia, USA, Central America and West Indies (pages 70-75, 80-81, 86-87) should’ve had their political counterparts side-by-side as shown for full continents.
h) Taken together, these 16 additional maps could’ve substituted the last 24 pages of 195 geography and 66 history questions, since there are numerous question banks to help a student prepare for competitive exams.
i) The poster-size map could’ve included World (physical) instead of the Educational Series Map (toposheet no. G43S10) – a detailed map of an area in Rajasthan, which is of little use. This would’ve made the poster-size maps – India (Political and Physical), World (Political and Physical).
2. Design and layout:
a) The political maps of different regions of India have an image or two of a monument or a feature unique to a state in the region. Since each of these maps already have an inset map of India highlighting the region of focus, this image hardly provides additional information than the region of the map it obscures. This feature is better suited for a tourist map, and perhaps unneccessary for a map in a student atlas.
b) The large “INDIA” labels on region-wise political maps is unnecessary since the inset maps already have them. On some maps, this gets in the way of the state/union territory labels (for instance, on page 27, instead of “CHANDIGARH”, the label reads “INDIA”, carrying over to page 28 for other union territories as well).
c) On all physical maps, the terrain transition borders are highlighted at some locations to give the terrain features a 3D effect. However, the colour of highlighting used is close to one of the contour colours for higher alititudes, making it easy to mistake the highlight as a high altitude region. This highlighting is unnecessary, and could’ve instead been represented by solid colours and black contour lines, making the maps clear and crisp.
d) On all physical maps, the purple and black font colours against high altitude brown areas make it hard to read the names of locations and mountain ranges (page 10 for instance). By using 2-colour fonts (light fill inside with dark outline), readability can be considerably improved.
e) Page 15 – the contour colour bar corresponding to Rajasthan should’ve used black box borders to distinguish the darker shades of teal.
f) Page 26 – the inset map of India highlighting the location of NCT of Delhi is missing. Also, because of the choice of the map scale, the NCT boundaries don’t fit inside the map making the extent of the NCT region unclear.
g) Page 28 – the font size of the label “ANDHRA PRADESH” is inconsistent.
h) Page 29 – the inset map of India highlighting the locations of Andaman and Nicobar islands is missing.
i) Page 29 – “ANDAMAN ISLAND” and “NICOBAR ISLAND” should read their plural counterparts since each is an archipelago consisting of several islands.
j) Page 30, map 4 (Temperature and Pressure, October) – the label “INDIA” is missing.
k) Page 42, map 2 (Milk Production) – the colour on Assam doesn’t correspond to any of the colour levels in the contour colour bar.
l) Page 43, map 2 (Fisheries) – Tropic of Cancer and the label “INDIA” are missing.
m) Page 45, map 2 (Mineral Belts) – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
n) Page 47, map 2 (Production-Nonmetallic minerals) – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
o) Page 49, map 1 (Engineering Based) – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
p) Page 50 – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
q) Page 50 – the line types used for Golden Quadilateral, North-South and East-West Corridors are different from those shown on page 5. Although consistent with those used on the map, the line types on page 5 would’ve made the Corridors and the Golden Quadilateral easily distinguishable.
r) Page 51 – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
s) Page 52, map 1 (Air Routes) – the label “INDIA” is missing.
t) Page 56 – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
u) Page 58 – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
v) Page 59, map 2 (Ground Water Quality) – Tropic of Cancer is missing.
w) Page 61 – the data source for the two maps (Natural Disasters I and II) hasn’t been mentioned.
x) Pages 62-65 – the data source(s) for the geographical extent of kingdoms in India through various ages has/have not been mentioned.
y) Pages 66, 67 – the label “Artic Circle” is missing.
z) Page 67 – Colours for Russia and Mongolia should’ve been different. As it stands presently, it makes Mongolia appear to be part of Russia at a first glance.
aa) Page 73 – the label “Tropic of Cancer” is missing.
bb) Page 82, 83 – one of the projections appear to be mislabeled since the physical and political maps of USA are identically projected.
cc) Page 96 – the contour colour bar is missing.
dd) Page 101 – the blue border of the Pacific Ocean map runs over the the contour colour bar.
ee) Pages 102,103 – the key to different capital location symbols is missing.
ff) Page 103 – the capital of Israel (Tel Aviv) is neither labeled on the map nor listed in the table below.
gg) Page 104 – the world physical map should’ve been printed on two pages (like its political counterpart) to make the detailed physical features easier to read.
hh) Page 120-122 – the data source(s) for maps of world history has/have not been mentioned.
ii) Page 121 – the scale and projection labels are missing.
jj) Page 122 – the projection label is missing.
3. Quality of print and binding:
The spine should’ve been thicker (1 mm at least) to resist lateral bending loads better.
I received the item with crease marks on its spine at two locations, showing slight lateral bending at the two locations. It is unclear whether this is a consequence of rough handling during shipping from the publisher to the seller or from the seller to me.
5. Additional features:
a) The atlas could’ve been slightly longer vertically to accommodate the poster-size maps laid side-by-side. That would’ve looked neat and given a good finish to an atlas well designed and printed.
b) The two poster-size maps could’ve been kept folded in two individual plastic bags glued side-by-side to the inside back cover. A slit with overlapping plastic sheaths (similar to CD plastic covers) would’ve made it convenient for the reader to store the maps in the atlas neatly.
Based on the positives and negatives listed above (by no means exhaustive), I’d give the following scores on a 10-point scale.
1. Content: 7.0
2. Design and layout: 7.0
3. Quality of print and binding: 8.5
4. Shipping: 6.0
5. Additional features: 8.0
6. Price: 9.0
The 3rd edition (2019) of the Oxford Student Atlas for India can be considerably improved across the areas listed above. However, I feel that the atlas fulfils its main purpose of being useful and informative to readers from high school students to professionals, with a sharp print quality at an affordable price. Therefore, I recommend this product.