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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 ...

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Rob Rennie October 07, 2012 at 10:25 PM
If your really want to stop printing phone books you need to convince merchants it is not worth their while to pay to advertise. If no payed adds, no phone books.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh October 08, 2012 at 12:35 AM
You can ask to not have phone books delivered to your home. I could only do it online and had to do several click throughs to get the job done. You think Verizon would love to have me off the list and save some money for their company. They call me every year to make sure I still do not want the current book. Yellow pages for Plumbers, etc are easy to find on yp.com.

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