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White Pages fading into memory
State has pending requests from land line players to end mandatory printed residential listings
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Gainesville teen Jordan Madden is truly a product of the digital generation.

Instead of buying CDs, she downloads music onto her MP3 player. And instead of physically turning the pages of a book, she slides her finger across the screen of her Kindle, a wireless reading device, to get to the next virtual page.

Since the majority of her friends have cell phones, she's never used a phone book to look up their numbers.

"My parents keep an old phone book in a kitchen drawer, but I've never used it," said Madden, 19. "The only time I ever need to look up a number is if I want to order pizza or something, but I either call (information) or look it up online."

Once upon a time, phone books were in heavy rotation in most homes across the country, but these days fewer and fewer people are turning to them for information.

A survey conducted for SuperMedia Inc. by Gallup shows that between 2005 and 2008, the percentage of households relying on stand-alone residential white pages fell to 11 percent from 25 percent.

Fewer people rely on paper directories for a variety of reasons - more people rely solely on cell phones, whose numbers typically aren't included in the listings, more listings are available online and mobile phones and caller ID systems on land lines can store a large number of frequently called numbers.

"I remember having to look up my friends' numbers when I was little. It was a pain because you always had to try and remember their parents' names to find it," said Cedrick Jones, a 31-year-old Gainesville resident. "Now I pretty much have everyone's number that I need stored in my cell phone. Hopefully nothing ever happens to it."

Although fewer phone users are relying on the white pages to locate telephone numbers for their family and friends, the traditional Yellow Pages directory is still a popular way to find the digits for businesses.

The Yellow Pages Association claims more than half the people in the U.S. still let their fingers do the walking every month, and that 550 million residential and business directories are still printed every year.

Verizon and AT&T Inc. - the two largest land line players - and others have requested exemptions from state requirements to distribute residential phone books in paper form.

The directories would be available on the Internet, printed upon request or provided on CD.

"You probably have a better chance of finding a name quicker if you can just search for it in a database than try to look it up in the white pages," said Link Hoewing, Verizon's vice president of Internet and technology policy.

Since 2007, states that have granted permission to quit printing residential listings or that have requests pending include: Georgia, Alabama, Delaware, Florida, New York and North Carolina.

The plan for New York-based Verizon is to seek regulatory approval in all 12 states where it operates land line telephone service.

In total, the savings could top 17,000 tons of paper annually throughout Verizon's service areas, the company said.

According to filings with regulators, AT&T said in places where it has been permitted to provide the white pages on demand, only about 2 percent of customers have requested a copy.

Although not all callers use them, there are some who say traditional phone books should continue to be offered.

"You can't always rely on technology," said Kevin Dunham, a 58-year-old Gainesville resident. "What if there is an emergency and the power isn't working, so you can't use your computer to look something up? It's good to have hard copies of things, just in case."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

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