Collecting Telephone Books

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nwk61wy.jpgA few days ago it was reported in the New York Times that Verizon has asked regulators if they can mail hard copies of the White Pages in New York and New Jersey only to those who ‘opt in.’ Likening the printed directory to a “rotary-dialed phone,” the NYT reports that the White Pages are viewed as obsolete in the digital age. (Paul Collins took up this topic in Slate in 2008, and his recent blog post alerted me to this interesting new development.)

Of course, what becomes rare or obsolete also becomes collectible. Gwillim Law’s website Old Telephone Books is a treasure trove of information about antique phone directories. How does he feel about the Verizon news? “It would probably be good for sales of old telephone books if directories went all-electronic. That would boost the interest of the numerous people with telephone nostalgia. When people realize that something is not going to be around much longer, some of them develop an interest in holding on to it,” he wrote by email.

Law also pointed out that the regulators may reject the petition, as they did in North Carolina (where Law resides). It has passed in several other states.

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Earlier this month, Ammon Shea published a new book in the books about books genre, The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads (Perigee paperback, $14.95). Shea is also the author of... Read More

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