Everybody knows it: The phone book. With a total circulation of 100 million, the telephone book with its smaller siblings “Gelbe Seiten” (=”Yellow pages”) and “Das Örtliche” (=”Local numbers”) is well known to everyone. Every year they are actually distributed by the ton, lying – shrink-wrapped in plastic – and on pallets in countless supermarket places, at DIY stores, in front of post offices, wherever people – and thus potential readers – can pick them up and take them home. Or they can be found in large numbers in the corridors of apartment buildings. Sometimes there is also a notification card in the mailbox, so that you can pick up the book at any issuing point.
This varies from region to region. For a city like Erfurt alone, 226,000 telephone directories are printed. At a weight of about 800g per book, this results in a mountain of paper of over 180 tons. (see Thüringer Allgemeine). As I said, that is only for Erfurt. Just one example.
Actually, and originally, the paper masses have their good reason, which is also often used as an argument for this constant flood of paper. There is a law for it, namely the telecommunication law (§ 78, with § 104 and 45, to be exact). It regulates that there must be a provision of the annually updated “printed public telephone directory, which corresponds to the general need and is regularly updated at least once a year”. And for all users/subscribers as a “general service”.
And for all these subscribers, this information must be made available free of charge. But free of charge is not quite the case. Because the financing of the paper flood takes place over the commercial entries and advertisements of tradespeople. Doctors, lawyers, craftsmen, restaurants and, of course, also hotels. And the high edition is naturally also an argument for the appropriate announcement prices for entries of trade customers. Nationwide, 163 issues of “Das Örtliche” (=”Local numbers”) are published. With a total circulation of 19.7 million copies, there are 21.8 million entries listed, published by 41 partner publishers (see NRZ). If you like, you can extrapolate this with the weight of the Düsseldorf telephone directory (it weighs 665 grams). Yes, it is a really large number.
As to all possible things, there are naturally also innumerable inquiries and market researches to the topic “telephone book”. A “bestseller”, at least in the category “Books that I read”, the telephone book is certainly no longer since a long time. This is also the finding of a fairly new yougov survey from 2015. The search engine on the Internet has definitely taken over and is in the lead when searching for telephone numbers. Especially, when it’s not about a local or regional telephone number, such as a hairdresser, dentist, plumber or restaurant “around the corner”. And 83% of all users rarely or never use the digital telephone book as well. That means in the reverse conclusion that only 17% of all users call it up regularly. Perhaps another reason to think or even re-think whether the “telephone book” still makes sense in the way we know it.
In short, in view of the enormous quantities of telephone books which – according to our attention – stand among these annual telephone book stacks, and finally always remain there quite obviously until the end, and which will be disposed of in the waste paper bin, we find it more and more difficult, year by year, to have our hotel registered there with an ad. So much paper, so many trees. Thus, it was time for us to rethink. By the way, in general, Germany is way ahead in terms of paper consumption. And the trend is rising. With an annual per capita consumption of over 250 kg, the transition from “paper use” to “paper waste” is probably fluent.
In short, we have decided not to “add to the list” by participating in the printed telephone directory. Especially, since the concept no longer seems so up-to-date to us. At least as far as the sustainability factor is concerned. By the way, in the Netherlands the printed telephone directory was abolished in 2018 after almost 140 years, as only 2% of the users considered it necessary.
We are now simply not in. And admittedly, that was a very strange feeling at first. We are also creatures of habit. And the printed telephone book is a highly familiar affair. At least that’s how it seems. But so were phones with dials or public phone booths. In the past.