I’m an old fogey. I read the dead tree version of the newspaper. I’ve installed no apps on my cellphone. I drive a minivan. Yet even I couldn’t tell you the last time I used a phone book.
When was the last time you used the white pages? Be honest now. I, for one, can’t remember the last time I used the phone book for anything but propping open a door. And apparently I’m not alone: see these two articles and this comment string for more examples of white-pages fatigue than you can shake a stick at.
[M]ost states still mandate universal white pages delivery. But the good news is that the tide is turning. The city of Seattle recently allowed residents to opt out of both white pages and yellow pages delivery. And sixteen enlightened states already allow phone companies to spare their customers the annual ritual of discarding an unneeded phone book: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and most recently, California. And as that mix of states suggests, the appeal of ending mandatory white pages delivery crosses partisan lines; phone book laws make even the conservative Heartland Institute sound like a bunch of tree-huggers.
Did you know that you could opt out of phone book delivery in Texas? I didn’t. I asked Tiffany, who said she remembered seeing some news coverage about it, but didn’t know where to go to actually do it. I’ve tried googling multiple variations on “Texas” “phone book” “white pages” “opt out” “delivery” and so forth with no luck. Anybody have more info about this?
Anyway. Kevin Drum thinks the reason for the decline in white page usage is related to “ubiquitous auto dialers, email, and social media”. I suspect cell phones, which can store a bunch of numbers and which can be synched with one’s email contacts, are a big part of it. Whatever the reason, the environmental case for doing away with white pages is clear: “The EPA reports that only 37 percent of phone directories (by weight) are recycled. The rest are simply landfilled.” People aren’t using them. Let them tell the phone company not to deliver them.