Verizon is taking the first steps toward what is likely to be the end of printed phone directories:
The residential White Pages, those inches-thick tomes of fine-print telephone listings that may be most useful as doorstops, could stop landing with a thud on doorsteps across New York later this year.
Verizon, the dominant local phone company in the state, asked regulators on Friday to allow it to end the annual delivery of millions of White Pages to all of its customers in New York. The company estimates that it would save nearly 5,000 tons of paper by ending the automatic distribution of the books.
Only about one of every nine households uses the hard-copy listings anymore, according to Verizon, which cited a 2008 Gallup survey. Most have switched to looking up numbers online or calling directory assistance. The phone book for many people, it seems, has gone from indispensable tool to unavoidable nuisance.
“Phone books have been a very visceral issue,” said Scott Cassel, executive director of the Product Stewardship Institute, an environmental group in Boston. “They do tend to pile up, particularly in apartments. More and more, people are finding that they don’t need them, but they can’t find a way to make them stop.”
When residential directories were delivered this year to the Ivy Tower, an apartment building on West 43rd Street in Manhattan, Ramon Almanzar, a concierge, kept 28 copies in case residents wanted them. Not a single occupant of the 320-unit building claimed one, Mr. Almanzar said.
“We end up throwing them away,” he said, as he greeted residents and opened a glass door. “Everyone goes online anyways.”
Customers who prefer to look up phone numbers the old-fashioned way or, like Steve Martin’s character in “The Jerk,” get a thrill from seeing their names in print, would still be able to have the White Pages delivered to them in book form or on compact disc.
Verizon hopes that regulators will waive the requirement that it deliver White Pages to all New Yorkers before the end of the year, said John Bonomo, a company spokesman. He said he did not know how many copies of the White Pages were distributed annually, but said the total was in the millions in New York City alone.
I can’t remember the last time I actually used a phone book, and I can’t say I’d miss having to figure out how to dispose of them the day after they’re delivered.