A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Phone book progress? Really?

Written November 27th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
A phone book waits to be picked up near somebody's mailbox on Bryant Way earlier this week.

A phone book waits to be picked up near somebody’s mailbox on Bryant Way earlier this week.

You’d think there was a better way to deliver phone books. But then, why all those additional phone books in the first place?

On one of my bike routes, I see phone books on the ground next to mailboxes every few months. Or so it seems; I haven’t actually kept a log of when I saw them last before there was another batch this week.

I assume the phone book publishers can’t afford or don’t want to pay whatever it would cost to put their directories in the mail. So the delivery persons have to leave them on the ground, hoping somebody will pick them up and put them to use.

Across the country over the last 20 years or so, phone books proliferated to the point where people complained. The result was a system allowing you to opt out. All you have to do is call and get on the list.

At least two cities, San Francisco and Seattle, passed laws against distributing unwanted phone directories. The Seattle law was challenged on constitutional grounds, but a federal district court upheld it.

As for the distribution to individual addresses, I understand that only the Postal Service is allowed to put stuff in our mailboxes. That’s why the books end up in the dirt by the mailbox or, best case, on the steps by the front door.

In the digital age, and since the decline of land lines in favor of mobile phones without listed numbers, phone books have been shrinking in heft. You can’t use them any more as a booster seat for the little ones. For that you need encyclopedias. (What’s that, you ask? They’re big fat books you can pile in a stack that won’t collapse.)

There used to be one phone book, and that was more than useful. All people with phones were listed unless they paid something to be left out. In seconds you could look up people’s names and addresses, and their numbers too of course, without having to power up an expensive phone, tablet or other device and possibly having to pay a fee. Saved all kinds of time and money.

But that’s history, no matter how many companies still publish their own phone books because they can sell ads in them.

Progress in regard to phone books? Doesn’t look like it from where I sit. (hh)

5 responses to “Phone book progress? Really?”

  1. Mike Martin says:

    In the early years of Security Alarm Corportation, I felt I needed to be in every yellow page book in the areas I did business in as well as areas I wanted to do business in. So I was in every local, regional, county, multi-county, city, multi-city, etc., etc., yellow page book in Albany, Bend, Corvallis, Dallas, Eugene, Lebanon, Mill City, Newport, Lincoln City, Stayton, Sweet Home, Philomath, Scio, Silverton, Springfield, and all the smaller towns in between that had yellow pages. I spent way too much money on yellow pages. But the worst part was dealing with yellow page sales folks all having data that indicated their book was read more than the other books in the area. In the later years I discovered that there are much more effective ways to spend my advertising dollars than overlapping yellow pages. This may not be true for other businesses but it was for mine. Yellow pages – don’t get me started.

  2. Richard Vannice says:

    We have had the same land line number since 1960 but it is no longer listed in the “DEX”phone book since we are not a Century Link customer. Guess Dex doesn’t know.

  3. Hazel M. Siebrecht says:

    I go by two abandoned phone books in plastic wrapping when I walk on Alexander Rd in Millersburg. They have been there for weeks, wet and bedraggled. I’d discard them but they are several blocks from my house and garbage can (not even recyclable now) and I don’t want to handle them. There must be a better way!

  4. CBonville says:

    Some things are slow to end as “progress” happens.

    I do wonder if the White and Yellow pages are still relevant for the lowest income bracket. Yet, oddly, too often (in my opinion) I see cell phones in the possession of persons that otherwise seem to destitute to have such a luxury. Yet, I also know how the modern world will pass you by (think, work opportunities) if you don’t stay connected.

  5. Oldtimer says:

    The phone book companies pay low wages and guarantee they print a given number.In Corvallis a pile is left at the front door weeks before students arrive. The same at apartments. Most are wasted. Some only go to business that paid for advertising. None go to customers. Sneaky. Just like the local paper throwing a special advertising edition out about Wednesdays. Some vacant properties have dozens rotting away. The City says it is not littering unless someone complains and that address is not delivered to again. Just like those phone books.


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