5 Reasons Why You Don't Need Phone Books


Ok, so here’s the deal. For as long as I can remember, Phone Books have been more of a doorstop than anything. Yeah, they were good for the occasional late night cab ride or pizza delivery, but 2-8 inches of impossible-to-rip pages just never made any sense to me.

Since I’ve been at WhitePages, I’ve heard from a number of customers, employees, clients, etc. that Phone Books really shouldn’t exist. The advent of the internet along with easy access to information has made the traditional Phone Book obsolete…at least for most of us. In fact, a number our users actually confuse WhitePages.com with the phonebook (go figure) and are asking us to opt them out of receiving mail delivered books. Hmmm…..there’s an idea!

I did some research a few weeks back to see what I could dig up on this Phone Book issue. Not surprisingly, a number of others are already on the crush-the-phonebook bandwagon and my research was pretty easy. So, I’ve come up with 5 Reasons why I think the Phone Book should ceremoniously be put to rest.

  1. It’s super-easy to Opt-out of receiving Phone Books. Who knew that an option ever even existed?.
  2. Paul Collins states in Slate Magazine that the 615 million volumes of phonebooks produced in 2007 equates to 100 million tons. That just doesn’t seem right.
  3. Recycling 500 books a day would save between 17 and 31 trees, 7000 gallons of water, and 463 gallons of oil according to the American Forest and Paper Association and Earth 911.
  4. The annoyance of trying to determine how to best get rid of and/or recycle the 6-10 phonebooks received each year is becoming unbearable.
  5. With over 200M people in the WhitePages Connectory database, most people have a better chance of finding who they’re looking for on our site than they do in a Phone Book. Love the shameless self promotion!

Now, to be fair, there are legitimate reasons for Phone Books not to completely disappear. The few of us without internet access may not appreciate losing touch with folks and the small businesses that rely on Yellow Pages advertising to attract customers have a legitimate beef to keep the books coming. But it sure seems like we can reduce the number of books delivered each year and the ridiculous amounts of waste that they create.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Phone Books and whether you think they’re useful or completely unwarranted. Who knows, maybe WhitePages will get a bit more involved in trying to curb Phone Book printing!


by John Lusk

23 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why You Don't Need Phone Books

  1. John Lusk says:

    Thanks for the comment Neal. Most people don’t even realize that you can opt-out of receiving phone books. We’re not going to be able stop printing them anytime soon, but sure seems like we can bring more awareness to the opt-out option.

  2. Russell says:

    Great point in this day and age of global warming, waste like this cannot continue unchecked. In the end consumers need to begin to pay for the environmental cost of the packaging and products we use.
    There are so many good local search directories in the yellow pages space like click2connect.com that allow potential clients to find local businesses more efficiently and without polluting the entire environment!

  3. Deborah Huyer says:

    John – thanks so much for providing the link to opt out of receiving phone books. I didn’t realize it was that simple. Let’s spread the word!

  4. cathy says:

    The best use I found for the stacks of phone books was to duct tape them together into the right size and use them as booster seats for the grandkids. Those days are gone so I take them straight to the recycle bin – I’d be so happy if I could just get it on a cd and not waste the trees to begin with.

  5. John Lusk says:


    Thanks for taking the time to comment! Sounds like those wasted phonebooks are saving you booster seat $$$. Good thinking. You don’t need a CD to get all of your ‘phone book’ information though. Just go to http://www.whitepages.com and you’ll find all of your people and business contact information online!


  6. Annette M. says:

    It is all well that we can opt out of receiving the phone book but how many persons will be out of work because of it? And you cannot get all the information you want on the whitepages unless you pay for it. Where is the saving for the people? Not everyone has the cash for that. I know because in my line of work I use white pages often but cannot always rely on the info.

  7. John Lusk says:

    Thanks for the comments Annette. By allowing people to opt-out of receiving the paper whitepages, we’ll most likely be saving jobs. It costs phone companies millions of dollars to print the whitepages and reducing the number of books printed could save millions of dollars…and potentially thousands of jobs. WhitePages has over 200 million free listings in our Directory, so hopefully you can find the information that you’re looking for on our site.

  8. Kathy says:

    While I think it is a good idea to eliminate the white pages ‘paper’ versions, I am concerned with the accuracy of WhitePages.com. I just finished a project to look up 900 zip plus 4 codes and found 10% (90) of my people with mistakes in their listings. My lookup has been exclusively for senior citizens – most of whom do not have internet access, nor do they want it. I tried earlier to ask the question as to where you obtained your information and how often it was updated but received no reply. Good luck with your project.

  9. John says:


    Thanks so much for you comment! WhitePages undoubtedly has the most accurate information around and that includes the printed white pages. We update our database each month, which makes WhitePages.com the freshest, most up-to-date source for free info. We actually have over 200M+ US adults in our database. Of course, with any large database, there’s bound to be some errors, but we’re constantly striving to make the data as accurate as possible.

    With regards to where we obtain our information, we get it from a variety of publicly available information sources and third party data suppliers. We’re also getting updated information directly from our users as we’re now giving people the ability to add and delete their information. Soon, users of WhitePages will be able to edit their information as well, thus making our data that much more accurate.

    Hope that answers your questions.


  10. Laura says:

    How is someone meant to ring my computer business that is only advertised online when their computer is broken. Print Yellow Pages is 50-75% of the source of our customers

  11. John Lusk says:


    Thanks for the links. I know that AT&T is starting to get on board with the opt-out movement. We really do need to do better when it comes to phone books. WhitePages is actually contemplating getting a bit more involved in this effort. I’ll certainly reach out to you if that comes to fruition.

    Thanks again.


  12. John Lusk says:

    Hi Laura,

    Good question. We’re not advocating that the phone books go away, we’re just promoting that there’s a better way to curb waste. One solution is to make phone books ‘opt-in’. If a customer wants a phonebook, then they can request one.

    From an innovation perspective, WhitePages is committed to making sure that people and business information are always accessible, anytime and anywhere. In addittion to our website, http://www.whitepages.com, we’re introducing a number of different products that run on mobile phones.

    But I agree with you, if your computer is down, you need to have another way to get a phone number.

    Thanks for the comment.


  13. Marianne says:

    I don’t want them. They are too heavy , they are in the way, and I surely do want to do my part to save trees, water and cut down on taxes being wasted. GET RID OF THE PHONE BOOKS

  14. R Mitchell says:

    DO NOT BAN THE PHONE BOOK! It took me 7 min to get thru the online BS of loggin in just to get a neighbors number and my mom 30 secs to open the book and find it. RIDUNKULOUS!

  15. Blue says:

    This is a great simple act to start in helping to Save Mother Earth! Plant a tree or save tons of them. Let us help eliminate wastes and do something for the unstopping global warming. In whatever way, let’s continue working to save our nature for our own benefit esp for our children’s children in the future. And we thank this kind of awareness to remind us of our environmental responsibility. Kudos!

  16. Bryce Steiner says:

    It would be nice to not have to use the phone book but there are very few numbers on whitepages.com anymore. People have not opted out either because their numbers are in the printed books (and being older, I know they don’t have computers to opt out with). It seems that whitepages online is not the place to go since information is not given. I guess it’s back to the books.

    What does Slate think that 6.15 phonebooks add up to one ton?

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