Friday, January 30, 2009

No more phone books, please!

In the digital age, it’s hard to believe that companies are still printing phone books.
But this week, a couple more new phone books thumped on my front porch. I can’t remember the last time I flipped through one looking for a business listing or person.
With online directories and search engines like Google and Yahoo, paper phone books are unnecessary. They take up space, clutter kitchen drawers and pollute the environment. It’s simply easier to use the Internet to look up businesses, government agencies and people. I’d much rather type in keywords than try to guess where a listing might be in a phone book.
Online directories often come with customer reviews, integrated maps and links to detailed Web pages for more info. Plus, you’re much more likely to get up-to-date information online than through a printed phone book.
In addition to mainstream directories like AT&T’s, there are Web 2.0-style directories like Yelp, where people write reviews and rate restaurants, stores and more.
But back to those pesky phone books. I’ve got five current ones from three or four publishers sitting in a kitchen cabinet. I recycle the old ones with the newspapers. But now I’m tempted to pitch the new ones too.
One organization working to eliminate the unsolicited delivery of Yellow and White pages phone books is YellowPagesGoesGreen. It seeks to get directory publishers to stop the practice on their own or face legislation to mandate the stoppage. The organization would like the equivalent of the National Do-Not-Call Registry, which helped to decrease the number of unwanted telephone solicitations. The group wants phone books to go only to those households that request them. Sounds reasonable to me.
More than 500 million phone directories are printed every year, according to The Web site offers these statistics:

To produce 500 million phone books:

19 million trees are harvested
1.6 billion pounds of paper are consumed
7.2 million barrels of oil are used to produce the books (not including gas used for their delivery to your doorstep)
3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are squandered
268,000 cubic yards of landfill are taken up

Another Web site, Eco Yellow Pages, reports that several states are considering legislative measures to make unsolicited delivery of phone books illegal. However, the Yellow Pages industry has a “powerful lobbying effort and a strong economic incentive to stop these efforts (97% of the estimated $14 billion in U.S. yellow pages revenue comes from printed directories),” Eco Yellow Pages says.
Both and Eco Yellow Pages offer consumers ways to opt-out of receiving phone books.

(Top photo: Current phone books in my house. Bottom photo: Art from

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