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'I Google': Why phonebooks are becoming obsolete


Phonebooks have been in circulation since the 19th century. These days, in this high-tech digital world, if someone needs a phone number, "I Google," said Bridgewater, N.S., resident Wayne Desouza.

When presented with a phonebook, University of King’s College student Bjorn Schmidt said he had seen them around before.

"Maybe at those old phones that you pay for, you might find one there," said Schmidt, describing a payphone, while admitting he had never before used one.

Compared to previous versions, phonebooks are now much thinner, seemingly shrinking on a yearly basis and lacking in names, numbers and business listing in both the white and yellow pages. Many Canadians now use smartphones, which unlike landlines are often unpublished.

Digital anthropologist Giles Crouch is surprised they still exist.

"Here we are, we’ve had smartphones for almost 20 years now, and yet we still have phonebooks."

Given the books are shrinking in size on a yearly basis it raises the question; who is actually using them?

"Thirty per cent of seniors don’t have access to the internet and don’t use it for information," said Canadian Association of Retired Persons COO Bill VanGorder, who added because of this, many seniors still rely on phonebooks. "This year with the books being slimmer, we’re going to hear that they are really disappointed."

Phonebooks use numbers that are listed with phone companies, but it also turns out, not all the information in a phonebook is correct.

"My phone number is actually in there, but the phone number doesn’t work," said Halifax resident Bernice Murphy-Critch. “It’s the wrong number essentially."

Crouch said advertisers pay for the phonebooks, for now.

"If those advertising dollars dry up for print, and move to digital, that’s going to kill the phonebook," said Crouch. "I would give it five years tops." Top Stories

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