Phone books arrive in Sacramento, but without the white pages

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 11:21 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 11:47 pm

Looking for the white pages? Try a museum.

In another sign of the supremacy of digital technology, the new phone books that have begun arriving in Sacramento are missing something: the residential white pages. The books showing up on Sacramento doorsteps contain the yellow pages and alphabetized business listings, but that’s all.

AT&T and YP, the company that publishes AT&T’s phone books, said in a press release that the decision to stop delivering the white pages “reflects recent usage feedback and research from consumers.”

YP said delivery of the white pages has also been halted in several other California markets, including Los Angeles, Orange County, Stockton and Bakersfield, but the decision hasn’t gone statewide yet.

All is not lost for those still craving the traditional white pages. Consumers can call (866) 329-7118 or click on to order a free copy of the residential directory, either in print or on CD-ROM. They can also download an electronic copy at

The directory publishers aren’t expecting a stampede of orders. In other cities where mass delivery of white pages has been eliminated, less than 5 percent of customers ask for a printed copy, said YP spokeswoman Deann Mayeda.

“Overall, the response from residents has been positive,” said Jaime Moore, a spokeswoman for AT&T.

The two companies are also eliminating white-pages delivery in selected markets in Connecticut, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Other phone-book publishers like Verizon have been scaling back white-pages deliveries around the country in recent years.

“That story has kind of been popping up all over the place. I suppose it was absolutely inevitable,” said Robert Thompson, a pop-culture expert at Syracuse University. “The idea of this big book, which took all sorts of delivery infrastructure – it’s much easier to have it online.”

Phone books are nearly as old as the telephone itself and have become collector’s items. What is believed to be the first comprehensive phone book was published in 1878 in New Haven, Conn., barely a year after the first private lines were installed. It had just 400 listings.

A surviving copy of one of the earliest New Haven directories sold for $170,000 at Christie’s auction house in New York in 2008.

Thompson said the proliferation of Internet directories probably doomed the white pages. So, too, did the emergence of the cellphone as the primary telecommunications device for more and more consumers, particularly the young. White pages are generally confined to landline listings, he said.

Among some older consumers who aren’t as comfortable with cellphones and computers, however, news of phase-out of the white pages isn’t sitting particularly well.

“It’s really an unfortunate sign of the times,” said Dick Pond, 73, taking a break from a card game Wednesday at the Hart Senior Center in midtown Sacramento. “I guess we’ll have to depend on last year’s technology and save the book.”

Another card player at the senior center, Jean Cousins, said she wasn’t bothered by the decision. “No more all that heavy paper,” she said. She did say, however, that she still uses the printed yellow pages.

Consumer advocate Mark Toney criticized AT&T for the decision.

“We are very concerned. Cutting out the white pages is another example of AT&T downgrading service while jacking up rates,” said Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network in San Francisco. “It’s a reduced cost; I don’t see the bills going down.”

Mayeda said the decision to stop distributing white pages was cleared by the California Public Utilities Commission. PUC spokesman Christopher Chow said the agency no longer requires phone-book publishers to make mass deliveries of directories.

Pam Miller, director of the Area 4 Agency on Aging in Sacramento, said she hasn’t heard any outcry from seniors about the decision.

“I haven’t looked at a phone book in so many years,” Miller said with a chuckle. “But I’m sure for older adults, they still use them.”

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

Read more articles by Dale Kasler

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