I Look Forward to the Demise of Yellowbook, and All Printed Telephone Directories


Last night, when I arrived at my front door, I spotted a large pile of telephone directories – stacked into two thick columns and bound together in plastic wrap. On seeing these my first thought was: they still make these things?

At first, I got pretty angry. No one I know really uses these things. It seemed like such a waste of paper, a huge pile of trees cut down unnecessarily and delivered to my doorstep – completely unsolicited.

After reflecting a bit longer, I realized my situation may not be the same for others. I’m fairly well off, I don’t need to worry about where my meals come from, or whether I can keep the heat on this winter. I have a mobile device, and a comfortable Internet connection inside my house.

My need for a printed directory of phone numbers is nonexistent. The Internet provides all the information I may need (and more, if you factor in reviews of goods and services). It my be that there are still people who rely on these books – people without ready Internet connections or mobile phones. Whatever those numbers may be today, I know those numbers are only going to grow.

Today, as I walked to work, I noticed all of the books in our courtyard have remained untouched. Instead of anger or indignation, I feel a sense of sadness. Looking at discarded technology makes me think of a car rusting in someone’s yard, a kid waiting on the sidelines hoping to get called in to play.

Once upon a time, many years ago, there were men in Chicago who made their living as knife sharpeners. They’d take their carts up and down neighborhood streets, hoping customers would come out of their homes with utensils in hand.

It’s amazing to me how many things have disappeared from our world, due to technology and obsolescence. It’s not quite here yet, but I imagine a future where mobile devices and Internet connectivity are ubiquitous. I imagine a day when these horribly antiquated books are no longer with us. I imagine the ring of a tiny bell, and the sound of a cart slowly rumbling into the distance.

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PS: Liz and I did end up taking one of these books. Two of them, in fact. Our bunny rabbits really like chewing on them, so we’ll be using them as very large, giant-sized bunny toys.

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