White Pages Following Rotary Phones Into History

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Want to build a low-cost collection of memorabilia? Here’s an idea: collect some phone books.

Some state utility regulators have been allowing major phone companies to halt the mandatory distribution of perhaps the only book more ubiquitous than bibles in American homes: the phone book.

Just within the last month, Verizon Communications has been granted permission to stop distributing the white pages in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. The request is also on the table in Virginia. Other states that have already approved the change: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

The reason is obvious – the web.

According to this recent article in the Huffington Post phone books have been around since 1878. These days, however, not only are phone books used less often, cell numbers often aren’t included in them, rendering them all but useless if the person you’re looking for belongs to the growing group of Americans who has “cut the cord” and eliminated their land line entirely.

The publisher of Verizon’s white pages, SuperMedia Inc., commissioned a Gallup poll that indicated that only 11% of American households rely on the white pages. Of course, SuperMedia – not Verizon – is the primary beneficiary of cutting out the mandatory distribution of white pages: they’re the ones who realize the cost savings.

In contrast, the phone book that’s been a cash cow for phone companies – the yellow pages – polls quite differently, at least according to those who benefit from it. The Yellow Pages Association says that more than half of Americans still let their fingers do the walking.

In places where phone companies have stopped the mandatory distribution of the white pages, it’s still available upon request. But it looks like its days are numbered. From the Huffinton Post article:

“Anybody who doesn’t have access to some kind of online way to look things up now is probably too old to be able to read the print in the white pages anyway,” joked Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University.

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