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The End Of The Phone Book Is Near

Posted by Nik on September 25, 2010

Earlier this year in May, Verizon requested New York regulators to stop delivering residential White Pages books to all customers of New York. Whether NY’s regulators approved this request or not is indeterminate at this point, but chances are it will get the go-ahead.

In that same article, AT&T has already received approval to stop delivering residential White Pages books in certain states – one of which is Florida where PCMech is based. Bear in mind that’s only for AT&T customers. Verizon Florida customers still get the books.

Before continuing, remember that White Pages are for residential and not business (yellow) listings. Verizon as far as I’m aware did not request the business phone book to go away. Just the residential.

When would one need a phone book to look up someone’s number?

Answer: Never.

I know of no one that uses the phone book to look up residential phone or address information. If it’s to look up business listings or a local government office, yes, that’s a legitimately good purpose for the book – but that’s not the White Pages.

If you want to look up someone’s number, you go to the Internet first and always. It can be said without any doubt the only people who don’t do that are those that don’t know how to use a computer – and those people are dwindling in number rapidly.

My personal experience with Verizon’s phone books

In the 813 Tampa area code, Verizon sends two books. One white, one yellow. They look like this when stacked on top of each other:

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Compared to other areas of the US, these are thin. I know this because I’ve seen books from other regions that resemble tomes in their thickness.

Even so, neither of these books will fit easily in a mailbox, and they’re guaranteed not to fit in most unit-style postal box.

It is a common occurrence in Florida to see these things stacked two-foot high in their plastic bags on the top of residential apartment complex mailbox units when delivered each year. Were it not for the plastic bags these come in, they would be absolutely destroyed by Mother Nature. A few Florida rainstorms would wreck them in short order.

After a month or so these books are finally thrown out.

Does anybody take these? A few, but not many. I may actually keep a set or two just for the sake of collection. I can definitely envision someone seeing a phone book on my shelf in the future and saying, “WOW! I haven’t seen a phone book in YEARS! Can I look at it?” You watch, it will happen.

What can you do with old phone books?

Besides using them as a support for a wobby table leg or an oversized paperweight, they’re worth money.

Ones that command higher prices are editions before the introduction of the newer overlays. For example, if you have a Massachusetts phone book that was just 617, 508 or 413 only, that’s worth something to a few collectors.

Others that command a better price are the editions prior to them becoming absolutely plastered with advertisements everywhere.

You may not get a lot of money for those old books, but hey, better to make a few bucks than just throwing them out.

Also remember that once something that was in wide circulation goes out of print, it’s officially a collector’s item at that point. If you happen to live in an area where the phone book is out of print at this point and still have the last edition, hang on to it. It may not be worth much now, but will in the future.

How are phone books treated where you live? Post a comment or two describing what happens to them.

6 thoughts on “The End Of The Phone Book Is Near”

Bacon Burger says:
2018 when this comment is being printed err sorry typed we can all blame the smartphone for killing the phone book, every few years we would get a new book in the driveway and it was like 4000 pages now the smartphone came along and everything was at a seconds notice, the smartphone is the culprit that killled thousands of full time jobs nationwide, once the smartphone is gone we will be an easier world, if something we need we drive to get it
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Aaron Fournier says:
When I see the phone book in my apartment’s hallway, I always pick it up, but I never seem to use it. Most of the time I use Google to get the contact information I need or want.
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Draceena01 says:
I can build computers and install OS’s with one hand tied behind my back and yet I still use my Phone book to look up numbers. The reason? I don’t have my computers running 24/7 and many times it’s faster to grab the book and find the phone number I need then to fire up my computer and search that way. Now if I have a computer running, of course the internet is faster and easier than the book but not all phonebook users are computer dullards. :-/
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Steve Stone says:
I think we receive at least five different phone books. We live in a county that is broken up into 3 different regions served by 3 different phone companies. Many of the phone numbers are incorrect. Many contain conflicting information, different addresses and phone numbers for the same person or same business. They are totally out of control. Almost looks like they culled their information using bots on the web. I do know of people who are not on the internet, do not subscribe to cable TV, do not have a cellphone. Many have a pet peeve about paying for a service. Some live on a fixed income (retired, etc.) and cut out the extras to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and pay the doctor bills. Some are blind or have restricted mobility and do not want to learn how to use alternative interfaces for a computer. Phone books today do not serve their original intended purpose. Business phone books today exist only because business owners are willing to take out ads in the phone book… otherwise they would fade away. I know a few small business owners today that still do everything on paper. (service station, trucker, etc.)
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David says:
Yes, they are largely ignored. But there are exceptions, like my mother who does not have a computer nor internet (we’ve tried…it’s just not her thing).

I think they should go to a “by request” sort of deal. Imagine if they sent post cards once a year asking for “orders”, and only print/deliver books to those that returned it. Would save a TON of printing.

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Researchcapt says:
I never imagined old phone books as collectors items. I guess anything that becomes rare can become a collectors item.
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