The End Of The Phone Book Era?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on November 15, 2010

When was the last time you used The White Pages to look up a person’s phone number? If you can’t recall that incident, you are not alone. In fact, you are a part of the 89% of the North American population that has moved on use the internet rather than flip through the white pages when they want to reach out to someone.

Verizon has already pulled the plug on residential phone books in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania and Virginia is next in line. AT&T plans to conduct a similar two-year trial in Jacksonville, Miami, West Palm Beach and central Florida.

Other states that have granted permission to quit printing residential listings or that have requests pending include Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. And there is little doubt that this list is only going to get longer with time. It makes me wonder if it’s the beginning of the end of the golden phone directory era.

Most carriers argue that residential phone books have outlived their expectancy and should be phased out sooner than later. They also use the “environment” factor to pitch their cause to regulatory authorities as lesser phone books would mean less paper and ink. WSJ reports an interesting finding that the number of traditional land lines has been declining for the better part of the decade, and now are being disconnected at a rate of nearly 10 percent each year. While I agree that this number is hardly substantial to support the business case for mass production, still a part of me refuses to accept the inevitable.

There’s no question that the decline in number of phone books being printed every year is great news for the environment. But with regulatory authorities playing into the hands of wireless carriers, what about the people who do not use the internet at all? What about the Baby boomer generation who still prefers to use a landline phone because they find it difficult to understand how a smartphone works? Would newspapers have the same fate? After all, it’s about the environment, right?

Obviously not. There’s more than what meets the eye here. The White Pages are no longer a lucrative commercial proposition for carriers and therefore it’s unsurprising that they are about to be axed. In contrast, Yellow Pages still represent a flourishing business prospect and the Yellow Pages Association says that it’s doing just “fine” as 550 million residential and business directories are still printed every year.

Carriers like Verizon have adopted a “Please All” approach by saying that they will continue to deliver directories that contain business and governmental listings along with the consumer guide information provided in white pages directories, but the residential listings would only be available by request.

I’m also concerned over our increasing dependency on the internet for just about anything and everything. Though it sounds old school, I’d rather be off the internet for at least some of my daily communication needs. I do not know if Internet “really is running out” but going online for everything doesn’t appeal me.

Time sums it up beautifully that the end of residential phone books is “yet another sign of the analog communication tree falling in the forest of the digital landscape”.  What’s your opinion on hard-copy phone books? Do you think that the explosion of internet and social media has splent doom for phone books? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment below this post.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS>, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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