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Seattle Tries To Limit Yellow Pages' Distribution, Waste

by Wright Bryan
Dec 9, 2010 (All Things Considered)

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The Yellow Pages are under attack in Seattle, and they're fighting back. Bryan Buckalew reports on All Things Considered tonight that the Yellow Pages' publisher is suing the city after Seattle called the books obsolete and decided to regulate their distribution.

City Council member Mike O'Brien says that Seattle spends $350,000 to recycle phone books that people in a networked society don't need or want. So O'Brien sponsored legislation to create a city-enforced opt-out list as well as place a fee on phone books distributed in the city.

Neg Norton is presidentof the Yellow Pages Association, one of the groups suing Seattle, and says that the ordinance infringes on First Amendment rights. And he says they have the data to show that people still use them, even in the age of the Internet.

As we've reported before, the White Pages are actually in a different situation entirely: phone companies don't want to print and distribute them. They are on the way out.

In the eyes of NPR blogger Linda Holmes, the Yellow Pages can't be far behind. So she asked her community at Monkey See to ponder what the disappearing phone book means to them.

Community member Anna Krueger replied with something approximating Seattle's argument against the books:

While the phone book formerly served me as a useful toddler booster chair, I now find it to be an annoying waste of paper that goes directly into the recycling bin. Why would anyone page thru this dinosaur when everything can be found online so much more efficiently?

There were plenty of other responses, however, that were nostalgic, amusing and even touching, like Alexandra Lancaster's memory of ripping a page out of the White Pages:

Whenever I travel, I check the phonebooks to see how many listings there are with my dad's surname. There's usually none or one or two. In the Polish section of Brooklyn, however, there was a page full. I tore the page out to give to my dad.

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