Monday, March 24, 2008

Phone Books: Facing Extinction

Every year, I seem to get several printed phone books. There are yellow pages, white pages, AT&T phone books, Yellow Book, off-brand books, etc. I get a Cleveland Metro East white pages, Cleveland Metro East Yellow pages, a Lake County Ohio white/yellow page combo, and a few off brand books (which I immediately put in the recycle bin).

It’s such a waste of paper and energy. It is rare that I even need to reference these books. The only time I look at the white pages is when I first get it, and then only to see if my name and phone number are correct. For the yellow pages, I use it maybe once a year when I happen to be looking for a contractor for something that I can’t find easily on the Internet.

In May of 2007, Bill Gates said that Yellow Page usage for people below the age of 50 will drop to near zero over the next five years. I’d say it could be sooner than that, if businesses realize that they can reach more people faster with more information on the Internet.

Sure, there are people out there – I’d say maybe the over 70 crowd rather than Gates' below 50 – who do not use the Internet much or at all, and who would still feel the need to have a phone book. But I think most people with Internet access wouldn’t blink if they were told tomorrow that they wouldn’t get another phone book.

Here’s what the phone companies should do: ask their customers if they want to opt-out of getting a phone book, or, ask people if they want to continue to get a phone book for a small fee. If people had to pay extra for a phone book, I bet the phone book would disappear almost overnight.

The only issue here is that, at least with the yellow pages, there may be plenty of businesses that believe that their ads in the yellow pages still reach a huge audience. I admit that the few times I have needed the yellow pages, it is very easy to compare business locations and services provided at a glance. But that is also becoming easier and easier on the Internet, where similar businesses can at least be grouped on a single map to make it simple to determine their locations relative to the person searching.

In this day and age where the energy to produce and deliver anything is becoming more expensive, I’d say that we should all work harder to make phone books a thing of the past.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the question about the Yellow Page directories' relevance is making more news.

is posting updates from a retailers prospective, but seems to be on the same page as you.