Phone Books Are Getting Thinner As Cellphones Take Over

One upon a time if you knew someone’s name, you could go to a thing called a “phone book” and look up their phone number and where they lived.

As cellphones becomes people’s primary telephone, more and more households are canceling their landlines—and removing themselves from the phone book. In fact, even though Manhattan attracts 10,000 new residents per year, the 2007 phone book is 142 pages smaller than last year’s edition.

Should cellphones be listed in the phone book? Most people say no.

From the NYT:

Consumers and privacy advocates balked at the idea in 2004, when most of the big wireless carriers said they wanted to compile a nationwide directory.

Cellphones may make it easier for people to reach each other, yet Americans are very guarded about whom they want calling them.

But what people gain in privacy is lost in a sense of community, reflected in shrinking phone books, said James E. Katz, chairman of the communications department at Rutgers University.

“People would meet someone, want to know where they lived, and look up their name in the phone book. And there was a certain ritual aspect to it when people would look forward to the new phone book,” Mr. Katz said. “So in a sense, it was a way of social visibility and social involvement. That whole way of doing things, it seems, has largely disappeared.”

Oh, well. That’s why we’ve got the Internet. —MEGHANN MARCO

As Cellphones Multiply, Phone Books Get Slimmer [NYT]
(Photo: Larsz)

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