Phone Books — Who Needs 'em?

The Santa Cruz county Phone Book 2012-2013 was delivered on Wednesday.

Wednesday was busy. I started work early enough that I could take my dog for a long walk before leaving him at home play host to Patch's Presidential Debate Viewing Party at Britannia Arms in Capitola.

The walk was great. I left my house in Rio Del Mar and did a five-mile loop that includes beautiful views from the Seascape Uplands Preserve. But the view in my driveway when I returned home was far less picturesque.

Sitting on the concrete were two plastic-wrapped thick books. One for me and one for my neighbor. The cover showed an irresistibly local photo of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on a sunny day with the mountains in the background.

My first thoughts: A visitor's guide? Local coupons? A book of photos? 

Then I read the title: Santa Cruz County — The Phone Book 2012-2013.

My next thought: Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

In retrospect, no one receives free visitors guides or photo books. But the phone book is just so two-decades-ago in my mind that I didn't even think that's what it might be. I look up phone numbers nearly every day, but I don't use a phone book. Ya know what I use? Google!

I understand everyone doesn't use the Internet. But wasting trees, paper, oil and money on production of these books for every household in the county is pointless.

According to TheGoodHuman.com, there are 500 million phone books printed in the U.S. every year, which requires 1.6 billion pounds of paper and 7.2 million barrels of oil not including gasoline for delivery. And for what? So pubescent novice drivers can see over the steering wheel? Or so gym rats can impress their friends by ripping the book in half?

I'd really like to know what percentage of people regularly use a phone book. The fact that it's not 100 percent means the system of automatic delivery is already broken.

My non-scientific, anecdote-based assumption that not even 50 percent of people use phone books for their intended use tells me that we need an opt-in system, not an opt-out system. People shouldn't have to tell the folks at Yellow Pages that they don't want the book anymore. They should have to speak up and claim that they want it.

Otherwise an inordinate amount of these books will continue to end up in landfills, or sit rotting in people's driveways, just waiting for next year's edition to be added to the pile.

Phone book debacle aside, our debate viewing party was great. Thanks to everyone who came out and filled Britannia Arms like only Patch readers can! Now if only we could do something about these phone books...

Do you use your phone book? Have you opted out? Do you think phone books are obsolete? Tell us in the comments!

Dan October 04, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I say get rid of it, I never even bring it into the house, I throw it right into the recycle bin! I get coupons all the time in the mail, business can do the same like the rest of them do!
Sheila Sanchez October 04, 2012 at 05:39 PM
It takes a young person to notice such waste. I'm going to use this on LG and Saratoga Patch sites and turn it into a poll. Thanks for saying and writing what everyone is thinking, Jacob. Great post!
Jacob Bourne October 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Thanks, Sheila! I'm interested to see what other people have to say.
Rob Ramer October 04, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I use http://www.whitepages.com, http://www.google.com, http://www.yellowpages.com; with the age of the internet and smart phones, the usage of a phone book is pretty slim, but in traditions sake I throw the old into the recyclables, and store the new in my book case for "Just In Case". & Cathy- you're truly dating yourself with the popcorn!
Cathy P. October 04, 2012 at 07:19 PM
What? It's only been 5 years (and btw, that was a joke)


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