Tuesday 12 May 2009
Does it look like this in your town? Over a week ago, the phone books were delivered to my neighborhood, and the above is a photo I took of a set of 10 mailboxes. As you can see, 8 of the mailbox owners have left their phone books laying rather forlornly on the ground, subject to all weather. That’s an 80% rate of neglect. I have noticed this all over my region of the world, and have been left asking myself, “are people just lazy; is it like this every year; or have phone books really gone the way of dinosaurs?”
I feel sad when I look at the massive waste of paper and plastic. I feel sorry when I think of the fact that the whole Yellow Pages section of those phone books is a record of the dreams of local business owners who are hoping my neighbors will flip the pages and do business. I feel regret when I think of all of the people who work for the big phone book companies and who, from what I understand, are having less and less luck getting advertising contracts with local businesses.
But the thing is, when I needed to get my car smogged last week, I Googled an auto repair shop.
When I wanted to buy a camera last year, I talked to family members, did competitive research online and then used the web to find a local source for the camera I decided to purchase.
When I moved house and needed to find about 100 different things for the move and the new place, I turned to my computer to get a picture of what my new town could offer me.
When my family members want to eat out, they read reviews at Yelp. When they need driving directions, they go to MapQuest. When they are looking for a bargain, they go to Craigslist or eBay. The last time I can remember seeing someone I know use a phone book, it was to hike up a baby so he could have a seat at the dinner table.
The point is, our fingers seem to have forgotten how to do the walking unless it’s over a keyboard. For better or for worse, the weeds growing ’round the old phone book aptly illustrate what I see as the present attitude toward a medium that has come to be seen as old technology. The way of the dinosaurs, right?
But, let’s not forget that the dinosaurs are still with us, in a way, as the birds we see flying all around us. Yellow Pages have gone online in an effort to adapt to the changing times, and I’m wishing them luck in their evolution. I would especially love to see one of the yellow-page-type entities make a serious, usable stab at getting medical provider data right, as this is one area in which Google has utterly dropped the ball.
Phone the doctors, one by one, and get their contact information straight, and they’ll be doing something Google has no plans to do. And, it would be in the spirit of accuracy that the phone book has been able to count as its strength against the web’s weakness. But this will have to be done on the web to avoid the knee-high-weed scenario shown above. Or, maybe that’s just my corner of the world. Maybe where you live, everyone snapped up their phone books as soon as they hit the dust? Take a look around the next time you’re out and about and let me know.
As for my neighbors, I guess it’s time to recycle your phone books.