Map production and distribution businesses that are facing plunging demand for printed maps amid the rise of the Internet are trying something different--other stuff made from maps.

Japan Map Center, a distributor of topographical maps produced by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, sold all its 2,000 “map fans” in a few days.

“Our products are quiet. They never sell a lot,” said a puzzled employee, after the fans sold like hot cakes.

Holding bundles of discontinued editions of maps that are no longer sellable, the company decided to recycle and make fans from them. Fan pieces were cut out from maps that had famous tourist destinations or landmarks printed on them.

In May, 1,000 “map fans” in nine patterns and priced at 759 yen ($6.80) each were sold out within days of release on its online store and at the company shop.

On June 26, another 1,000 fans in six patterns were released, and the online shop sold out of them within an hour.

“Some fans are of maps that contain information about discontinued railways, so maybe these features are attracting train buffs,” the Japan Map Center employee speculated.

Tokyo Cartographic Co., which sells map data for car navigation systems, is considered as the pioneer of the map and railway map merchandise market.

The company started producing map-patterned products in 2009, and so far, nearly 200 kinds of items, including bags, handkerchiefs and notebooks, have been released. The sales of these merchandises have steadily increased by almost 20 percent annually.

In 2015, Naigai Map Production Inc. also started selling stationery that uses map symbols as part of the design. Zenrin Co., a major residential map maker, also started selling stationery using map data in 2016. Its map data was also used as part of a special golfwear design in 2017.

As many people are now just a flick away with their smartphones from a map, all map producers and distributors are struggling.

Japan Map Center sold more than 400,000 sheets of maps in fiscal 2016, only about 5 percent of what it used to sell when the business was at its peak.