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We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targetedanalyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. Last month, you probably got a fat new yellow s phonebook listing all the businesses in your area delivered to your doorstep. You might have also gotten the white s listing residential addresseseither as a separate volume or combined as one book.

And if you're like 70 percent of Americans, you probably won't even open the phonebook once before the next year's batch arrives. Phonebooks were once extremely useful: before the internet, they were the main way we had of looking up phone s and addresses of local businesses or acquaintances.

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So why are phonebooks still regularly delivered to most American households every year? Mainly because companies have fought regulations to phase out the yellow s out of self-interest — they're packed full ofand make these companies money. Meanwhile, many states legally require phone companies to deliver the white s as a public service, though these laws are gradually disappearing over time.

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Now, if you don't use the phonebook, manufacturers have created a system that lets you opt out online. However, critics say that it's not reliable free and that if you opt out, there's a pretty good chance you'll get a phonebook anyway. Stacks of unopened phonebooks sit outside.

Bonnie Natko. The yellow s are an advertisement disguised as a directory. Although they list all businesses in a given area in small type, a subset white businesses pay for or for larger type. This is partly because ad rates are often calculated based off the of phonebooks distributed, not actual usage phonebook usage. As a result, these companies have fought efforts to reduce pages distribution every step of the way — even as fewer and fewer people use them.

Inthe city of Seattle passed the first ordinance requiring phonebook companies to let residents opt out of getting the yellow s, and ased the companies penalties for each unwanted book delivered. Phonebook companies have fought efforts to reduce distribution every step of the way. The Local Search Association LSA — an industry group representing the largest phonebook companies — sued the cityarguing Corona the ordinance violated their free speech rights.

The group eventually won the lawsuitstriking down the law.

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Interestingly, as the lawsuit proceeded, the Local Search Association started their own nationwide opt-out system. But you could also take a more cynical view of their strategy: the LSA sued Seattle to eliminate the precedent of municipalities having the power to regulate phonebook distribution.

Moreover, the LSA's opt-out doesn't have the ability or transparency of Seattle's — there's no penalty stopping the companies from just delivering books to people who've opted out. T hey don't have to actively advertise the opt-out system, which the Seattle ordinance had required.

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Most importantly, they reluctantly adopted the opt-out system to avoid an even worse fate: opt-in. As a result, for every household in the country, the default setting is still to get the yellow s each year. You can opt out, but few people are aware of the option, and some critics say the lack of ability makes the system pretty noneffective.

My brother, for instance, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, opted out online and still had the yellow s delivered from Hibu last month. A phonebook delivery station in Denver. Photo By Helen H. The white s — which contain residential listings — are a very different story. They cost money to print and distribute, and provide essentially no revenue. For years, states have required landline providers to distribute white s as a public service. Gradually, though, that's changing.

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InVerizon submitted a request to regulators in several states to allow it to create an opt-in system for white s, and in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania, they got permission. Since then, at least 12 more states — Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — have given various companies permission, though white s are still being distributed in some areas of them.

Other state legislatures, such as Maryland's, have denied the requestsasking for hard evidence that people truly don't use white s. In response, Verizon has commissioned polls showing that just 11 percent of households rely on white s to look things up.

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What's funny, though, is that representatives from some of these same companies have made the exact opposite argument in favor of keeping the yellow s. There, companies claim that the low s actually underestimate the real of people who use the yellow s. It may just be a coincidence that the yellow s are profitable while the white s are an expense.

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A phonebook disposal dumpster in Orlando, a day after delivery. Tim Welch. There is one good argument against opt-in systems for both yellow and white s: they could disproportionately hurt the elderly and the poor, who are least likely to have internet access to look up addresses and phone s. If phonebook deliveries suddenly stopped, some people would be stuck with outdated information. Still, automatically printing phonebooks for millions of households across the country is a huge waste.

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All that wasteful printing produces roughly 3. Furthermore, m unicipalities pay millions of dollars to trash or recycle stacks of books that haven't even been removed from their shrink-wrapping. There must be a better way. And i t's not particularly hard to think of some possible fixes to ensure opt-in programs are more equitable.

Companies could distribute phonebooks with a letter explaining the new system, and a slip to be sent in if someone wanted to keep getting the books next year. They could send follow-up letters to people or areas they calculate to be most likely to actually use the books, or merely establish opt-in systems for urban areas — which are most likely to have good internet access — and preserve the current opt-out scheme in rural areas, as Missouri has.

Whatever the means, what's clear is that it's time to end the blanket delivery of phonebooks to every household in the country.

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By choosing I Acceptyou consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies. The infuriating reason you still get a phonebook delivered every year. Share this story Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share All sharing options Share All sharing options for: The infuriating reason you still get a phonebook delivered every year. Reddit Pocket Flipboard .

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Jamie Last month, you probably got a fat new yellow s phonebook listing all the businesses in your area delivered to your doorstep. Why you still get the yellow s Stacks of unopened phonebooks sit outside. Bonnie Natko The yellow s are an advertisement disguised as a directory. Phonebook companies have fought efforts to reduce distribution every step of the way The Local Search Association LSA — an industry group representing the largest phonebook companies — sued the cityarguing that the ordinance violated their free speech rights.

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Why you might still get the white s A phonebook delivery station in Denver. Why automatic phonebook delivery needs to stop A phonebook disposal dumpster in Orlando, a day after delivery. Tim Welch There is one good argument against opt-in systems for both yellow and white s: they could disproportionately hurt the elderly and the poor, who are least likely to have internet access to look up addresses and phone s.

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