Phone books still have plenty of fans in Gero

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Peter Windsor says he is "too buggered" to use the internet and he loves a good phone book.
Camera IconPeter Windsor says he is "too buggered" to use the internet and he loves a good phone book. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

Do you still use a phone book? Kalbarri man Martin Phyland is willing to bet you don’t.

The 60-year-old, who runs a coffee shop by popular surf spot Jake’s Point, said he’s spoken to more than 100 Kalbarri residents and tourists over the past year and had asked them all the same question about Australia’s White and Yellow Pages.

He said nine times out of 10, people replied, “Nope! Haven’t used one in years”.

“Can you imagine how much tonnage goes to waste when people through out phone books?” Mr Phyland said.

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“Even older people.

“My father-in-law is 93 and even he’s on the computer.

“He says he hasn’t used a phone book in years.”

We asked some of Geraldton’s older residents to see if they felt the same way: are physical directories redundant in the digital age, or do people still appreciate a good hard-copy phone book?

A thought or two from Geraldton Cultural Trust’s Spinner and Weaver Group

Val Royce, 83, admitted she infrequently used a directory because all the numbers she rings are already saved in her mobile phone.

By contrast, Angela Padman, 45, believed a physical phone directory was not only needed, but it could even have lifesaving advantages over its online counterpart.

“If you think of people in controlling or abusive relationships, who need helpful government numbers but can’t access them online for fear their internet search history can be found, then you can see how a phone book would help,” she said.

“On top of that, they’re good if you need a list of numbers for plumbers or electricians but can’t quite think of a business name.

“I also keep an old one in my car and use the map in the front, because I don’t have a GPS.”

Other craft group members also said a physical copy of numbers and addresses were needed for people who had not yet learnt to navigate the internet.

Noeline Hadley, who described herself as “computer-illiterate” said she used a hard copy all the time and Ondre Ward, 72, said she was just “too old” to get information online.

Margaret Smith, 67, agreed with the opinions shared in the group.

“My husband and I refuse at our age to be beholden to the computer,” Mrs Smith said.

“We like something tactile, you know.”

An opinion shared by Geraldton and Districts Senior Action Group

The members of a Geraldton seniors groups mostly agreed with the spinners and weavers.

However, the 50-strong crowd at a meeting last Wednesday had some suggestions about how directory makers could improve their product.

“Be nice if the print was bigger,” one man chuckled during a group discussion.

“We probably don’t need them every year,” a woman said.

“No, I think we should because businesses change all the time and we need updated details,” another member countered.

Committee members Trevor Hansen, Diana Keighran, Lina Mittoni and Chris Mullender led the phone book discussion and all agreed the directory was a necessary household staple, particularly for older Australians.

“No way should we get rid of them,” Mr Hansen said.

A word from Sensis

According to phone book provider Sensis, the White Pages phone directory is a legal requirement and is produced on behalf of Telstra and the Federal Government.

Sensis spokesman Will Clarke said the Yellow Pages was partially a marketing tool and Sensis still received about 2000 monthly requests for new directories. He also said company research showed high directory usage in regional areas with NBN and they were still largely used by mature readers.

According to Mr Clarke, demand for hard-copy phone directories has remained relatively steady and delivery volumes currently sit at 2017 levels.

However, he said book use had declined over the past 10 years, due to the vast number of search and advertising competitors.

For readers concerned about the wastefulness of the annual printing of phone directories, Mr Clarke said Sensis took an environment-conscious approach to business.

“The books are combined with the White Pages to cut down on print,” he said.

“Our books are carbon neutral through the Australian Government-endorsed carbon neutral certification program”.

Sensis is trialling encasing phone directories in biodegradable wrapping which can be put in landfill to further reduce the environmental impact.

* The 2019 phone book delivery is being prepared this month. To opt out of receiving a phone book next in the future, go to directoryselect.com.au

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