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January 25, 2011

Phone Books - Modern Waste of Paper?

Every time I've walked through our building's lobby over the last couple of weeks, I've seen it: the messy-looking pile of yellow books, neatly-stacked but slightly askew. Yes, they are the annual delivery of telephone books.

In years past, when the new phone books have come out, the concierge (or someone, anyway) has placed a copy outside everybody's door. For a few years, we even received two: a small little Yellow Pages only and another huge residential directory. We took them in, placed them on a shelf somewhere (unless we needed to hold something up, as the big ones sometimes made a really good monitor stand if you need just a little more height), and left them to collect dust until we decided to recycle them.

They always went unused.

In this day and age of online directories, internet-capable phones and mobile devices, and people with their own electronic address books, how many people actually use the phone book anymore? Do most of them sit, lonely and ignored, on a shelf somewhere, wanting desperately to be opened and have a phone number looked up? Forever to be disappointed? And then into the recycling bin they go!

Some people build up a collection of them, the annual arrival just being dumped on top of last year's, unless something around the house needs propping up.

Then, finally, in a fit of Spring Cleaning, all of them get dumped into the bin, to be recycled into something else eventually.

Maybe another telephone book?

Are there enough people using these books to actually make it worthwhile (both economically and environmentally) to keep printing them? Are there enough eyes looking at the Yellow Pages to make a full-page ad in them worth paying for? Unless such an ad also applies to the online version of the Yellow Pages, of course.

I see ads on our Seattle TV stations for Dex, with the guy sitting in your kitchen waiting to answer your question (which is kind of creepy, if you really think about it). And then he turns into a computer, because he's advertising the Dex online directory service.

Thankfully, this year, rather than distributing all of the books to every unit in the building, they have the stack of books in the lobby where people can pick one up if they want one. They must have received a lot of complaints over the years. If people don't pick one up by today, the rest will be sent back to wherever. I haven't noticed the pile of books disappearing appreciably.

Do you still get a phone directory book? And if so, does it get used? For what? Actual phone numbers? Or a convenient prop?

I'd love to hear your phone book stories too, if you have them.


  1. I think they are a complete waste. Maybe they're useful & handy for hotels & businesses or something, but I think they should stop delivering them to homes. I think most people rely on their smartphones & their computers if they need to look up information. Let's save paper!

  2. I hear ya, sister!!!

    Or at least give people the option.


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