Paper Phone Books Are Obsolete
Claire Thompson issues a call to get rid of the paper phonebooks, citing a recent study paid for by a company that competes directly with same that “only 15.9 percent of U.S. adults recycle their old or unwanted phone books, and that U.S. citizens are largely unaware of the environmental impact of printing and delivering so many phone books.” Said company is sponsoring a program wherein people would only get their competitor’s product if they specifically asked for it.
Resisting the temptation to note the irony, Kevin Drum notes that he rarely uses his paper phone book and that he indeed recycles his old ones because his community makes it easy. He observes,
The really mysterious part of all this, though, is that despite the fact that phone books seem like they ought to be a dying breed, there are more of them than ever. I just looked, and we have not one, not two, not three, but four different yellow pages directories. One from Verizon, one from Yellowbook, and two from AT&T (they come in two different sizes for some reason). They’re all crammed with ads, which must mean people are using them, but I do sort of wonder who that is sometimes. I use the web almost exclusively for this kind of thing these days, and I imagine that most people in my upscale neighborhood do too. So why all the phone books?
Presumably, because there’s money to be made in selling ads in them by convincing businesses that widespread distribution equals widespread use. This is the same strategy that, for example, has the Washington Post frequently offering to give me the other six days free along with my existing Sunday edition if I’ll merely agree to take them. I decline on the grounds that having to go fetch a paper six times merely so I can recycle it is not attractive.
One presumes that there are people who still find the listings of businesses by type useful on occasion. And, I suppose, it would be handy if one’s power and/or Internet connection were down. I’m a straight-to-recycle guy myself.