By Brian | November 12, 2010 | Share on Facebook
The 133-year tradition that is the phone book (a.k.a., the White Pages) is quietly coming to an end. According to the Associated Press, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania have all obtained approval this month to stop printing the paper-based phone book. Virginia residents have until November 19th to provide comments on a similar request.
The statistics are rather stark: only 11% of of households relied on the white pages in 2008 (down from 25% in 2005). Land line phones are being disconnected at a rate of 10% per year, as people make their cellphone, which is not listed in the white pages, their only phone. And in places where the phone companies have been allowed to offer a choice, only 2% of customers have asked for a phone book.
Technology is obviously the “killer app” here. Phone numbers are much more easily obtained via search engines, which are often available on the smart phones themselves. The smart phones also have Caller ID and electronic address books, so frequently (or even infrequently) called numbers are recorded and stored for later use, gradually creating a personalized phone book for each person. And for those Neanderthals who don’t have smart phones, the phone company can print a single, on-demand phone book just for that person, or even send them a CD-ROM. All of this, of course, leads to big cost savings for the phone company, who doesn’t have to print the (largely advertising-free) book. And, of course, there are environmental benefits as well – each book represents just over 3.5 pounds of paper.
So it seems like a win-win situation all around. The only thing left, as far as I can tell, is for Google to invent a way to prop up the leg of a wobbly table.