Telephone directory

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A "white pages" telephone directory Telefonbog ubt-1.JPG
A "white pages" telephone directory

A telephone directory, commonly called a telephone book, telephone address book, phone book, or the white and yellow pages, is a listing of telephone subscribers in a geographical area or subscribers to services provided by the organization that publishes the directory. Its purpose is to allow the telephone number of a subscriber identified by name and address to be found.


The advent of the Internet and smartphones in the 21st century greatly reduced the need for a paper phone book. Some communities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, sought to ban their unsolicited distribution as wasteful, unwanted and harmful to the environment. [1] [2]


Subscriber names are generally listed in alphabetical order, together with their postal or street address and telephone number. In principle every subscriber in the geographical coverage area is listed, but subscribers may request the exclusion of their number from the directory, often for a fee; their number is then said to be "unlisted" (US and Canada), "ex-directory" (British English), "private" or private number (Australia and New Zealand). [3]

A telephone directory may also provide instructions: how to use the telephone service, how to dial a particular number, be it local or international, what numbers to access important and emergency services, utilities, hospitals, doctors, and organizations who can provide support in times of crisis. It may also have civil defense or emergency management information. There may be transit maps, postal code/zip code guides, international dialing codes or stadium seating charts, as well as advertising.

In the US, under current rules and practices, mobile phone and voice over IP listings are not included in telephone directories. Efforts to create cellular directories have met stiff opposition from several fronts, including those who seek to avoid telemarketers.[ citation needed ]


A telephone directory and its content may be known by the color of the paper it is printed on.

Other colors may have other meanings; for example, information on government agencies is often printed on blue pages or green pages.[ citation needed ]


Telephone directories can be published in hard copy or in electronic form. In the latter case, the directory can be used provided as an online service through proprietary terminals or over the Internet, or on physical media such as CD-ROM. In many countries directories are both published in book form and also available over the Internet. Printed directories were usually supplied free of charge.


The first telephone directory, printed in New Haven, Connecticut, United States in November 1878 New haven directory 1878.jpg
The first telephone directory, printed in New Haven, Connecticut, United States in November 1878

Telephone directories are a type of city directory. Books listing the inhabitants of an entire city were widely published starting in the 18th century, before the invention of the telephone.

The first telephone directory, consisting of a single piece of cardboard, was issued on 21 February 1878; it listed 50 individuals, businesses, and other offices in New Haven, Connecticut that had telephones. [4]

The first British telephone directory was published on 15 January 1880 by The Telephone Company. It contained 248 names and addresses of individuals and businesses in London; telephone numbers were not used at the time as subscribers were asked for by name at the exchange. [5] The directory is preserved as part of the British phone book collection by BT Archives.

In 1938, AT&T commissioned the creation of a new type font, known as BELL GOTHIC, the purpose of which was to be readable at very small font sizes when printed on newsprint where small imperfections were common.

In 1981 France was the first country to have an electronic directory [6] on a system called Minitel. The directory is called "11" after its telephone access number.

In 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (in Feist v. Rural ) that telephone companies do not have a copyright on telephone listings, because copyright protects creativity and not the mere labor of collecting existing information.

Recently delivered 2013-2014 phone books in the trash unopened. In the 21st century some communities have tried to stop the unsolicited distribution of the books Unused Phonebooks.JPG
Recently delivered 2013–2014 phone books in the trash unopened. In the 21st century some communities have tried to stop the unsolicited distribution of the books

1996 was the year the first telephone directories went online in the USA. and both saw their start in April. [7]

In 1999, the first online telephone directories and people-finding sites such as went online in the UK. In 2003, more advanced UK searching including Electoral Roll became available on

In the 21st century, printed telephone directories are increasingly criticized as waste. In 2012, after some North American cities passed laws banning the distribution of telephone books, an industry group sued and obtained a court ruling permitting the distribution to continue. [1] Manufacture and distribution of telephone directories produces over 1,400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and consumes over 600,000 tons of paper annually. [8]

Reverse directories

A reverse telephone directory is sorted by number, which can be looked up to give the name and address of the subscriber.

Ripping phone books in half has often been considered a feat of strength. There are Guinness World Records for ripping the most phone books within a specific time period: the record for most phone books ripped within three minutes was established by Tina Shelton in 2007 for females (21 books) [9] and by Edward Charon in 2006 for males (56 books). [10]

The 1988 film Rain Man features an autistic savant Raymond Babbitt (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman), inspired by the real-life savant Kim Peek (known for his capability of reading and memorizing whole books within an hour), who was capable of memorizing and reciting entire telephone directories.

The 1984film The Terminator features a titular 'cyborg assassin' antagonist sent back in time to murder the character Sarah Connor. Knowing only the name and general location of the target, the cyborg uses telephone directories from public phone booths to systematically murder everyone in the local area with that name, in the order in which they appeared in the directory, causing the press and police to use the nickname 'The Phone Book Killer'.

See also

Related Research Articles

North American Numbering Plan integrated telephone numbering plan serving 20 North American countries which share its resources

The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) is a telephone numbering plan that encompasses twenty-five distinct regions in twenty countries primarily in North America, including the Caribbean. Some North American countries, most notably Mexico, do not participate in the NANP.

4-1-1 is the telephone number for local directory assistance in Canada and the United States. Until the early 1980s, 4-1-1 and the related 1-1-3 calls were free in most states.

Address book book or a database used for storing entries called contacts

An address book or a name and address book (NAB) is a book or a database used for storing entries called contacts. Each contact entry usually consists of a few standard fields. Most such systems store the details in alphabetical order of people's names, although in paper-based address books entries can easily end up out of order as the owner inserts details of more individuals or as people move. Many address books use small ring binders that allow adding, removing and shuffling of pages to make room.

Yellow pages Telephone directory of businesses by category

The yellow pages are any telephone directory of businesses, organised by category rather than alphabetically by business name, and in which advertising is sold. The directories were originally printed on yellow paper, as opposed to white pages for non-commercial listings. The traditional term "yellow pages" is now also applied to online directories of businesses.

Telephone numbers in France Wikimedia list article

The French telephone numbering plan is not only used for metropolitan France but also for the French overseas departments and some overseas collectivities.

Telephone numbers in the Netherlands Wikimedia list article

Telephone numbers in the Netherlands are administered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation of the Netherlands and may be grouped into three general categories: geographical numbers, non-geographical numbers, and numbers for public services.

Business directory printed or web-based listing of businesses by category

A business directory is a website or printed listing of information which lists businesses within niche based categories. Businesses can be categorized by niche, location, activity, or size. Business may be compiled either manually or through an automated online search software. Online yellow pages are a type of business directory, as is the traditional phone book. The details provided in a business directory may vary. They may include the business name, addresses, telephone numbers, location, contact information, type of service or products the business provides, the number of employees, the served region and any professional associations.

Telephone exchange names

A telephone exchange name or central office name was a distinguishing and memorable name assigned to a central office. It identified the switching system to which a telephone was connected. Each central office served a maximum of 10,000 subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone number. Areas or cities with more subscribers were served by multiple central offices, possibly hosted in the same building. The leading letters of a central office name were used as the leading components of the telephone number representation, so that each telephone number in an area was unique. These letters were mapped to digits, which was indicated visibly on a dial telephone.

YP Holdings

YP Holdings, now a wholly owned subsidiary of DexYP, is the American parent company for YP LLC. Its products include printed telephone directories, and YP app. YP offers a wide range of marketing solutions from building online presence to promoting local and national businesses through local search, display ads and direct marketing. On July 31, 2012, YP was included in PaidContent50's list of "the world's most successful digital media companies" based on 2011 digital ad revenue.

YP Texas Region Yellow Pages LLC is a division of YP Holdings that publishes telephone directories to Southwestern Bell customers for AT&T.


Dex One Corporation was an American marketing company providing online, mobile and print search marketing via their website, print yellow pages directories and pay-per-click ad networks in the U.S.

A reverse telephone directory is a collection of telephone numbers and associated customer details. However, unlike a standard telephone directory, where the user uses customer's details in order to retrieve the telephone number of that person or business, a reverse telephone directory allows users to search by a telephone service number in order to retrieve the customer details for that service.

Blue pages are a telephone directory listing of American and Canadian state agencies, government agencies, federal government and other official entities, along with specific offices, departments, or bureaus located wherein.

Electronic Yellow Pages are online versions of traditional printed business directories produced by telephone companies around the world. Typical functionalities of online yellow pages include the alphabetical listings of businesses and search functionality of the business database by name, business or location. Since Electronic Yellow Pages are not limited by space considerations, they often contain far more comprehensive business information such as vicinity maps, company profiles, product information, and more.

Telephone number unique sequence of digits assigned to a telephone subscription

A telephone number is a sequence of digits assigned to a fixed-line telephone subscriber station connected to a telephone line or to a wireless electronic telephony device, such as a radio telephone or a mobile telephone, or to other devices for data transmission via the public switched telephone network (PSTN) or other public and private networks.

The white pages is a listing of telephone subscribers in a telephone directory.

Valley Yellow Pages is owned by AGI Publishing, Inc., and is an independent Yellow Pages directory publisher serving 45 markets in Northern and Central California. An independent Yellow Pages publisher is a company that publishes Yellow Pages directories as alternatives to the local phone companies. The independent directories include similar headings and advertisements, and are distributed to local households and businesses in the market areas. Advertisements are sold to local businesses as an alternative choice to the traditional phone companies. This helps to keep local market Yellow Pages advertising costs down.

Whitepages (company) company

Whitepages is a provider of online directory services, fraud screening and identity verification for businesses, public record background checks, and other products, based on its database of contact information for people and businesses. It has the largest database available of contact information on US residents. is an American website that features a national online telephone number and street address directory, containing Yellow Pages and White Pages throughout the United States. Owned and operated by Yellow Pages Directory Inc., which is headquartered in East Northport, NY, the website was originally launched in 2010 by a private owner and was soon acquired by Yellow Pages Directory Inc. In addition to telephone and street address listings, the website also touts an environmentally friendly theme and features numerous informational blog articles on the subject of conversation, in addition to being outspoken advocates of opting-out of traditional print telephone directory home delivery.


  1. 1 2 3 Yellow Pages ruling endangers SF ban, Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle , 15 October 2012; accessed 19 March 2013
  2. Appeals court rules against Seattle's curbs on yellow pages, Emily Heffter, Seattle Times , 15 October 2012; accessed 19 March 2013
  3. "How to get a non-published Bell Home phone number". 17 June 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  4. Jason Zasky. "The Phone Book". Failure Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  5. Records of the Telephone Company Limited (Bell's Patents), BT Archives reference TPA
  6. "Telephone History in France by". Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  7. Telephone Directory History by
  8. Paster, Pablo (11 January 2010). "Ask Pablo: What Is The Impact Of All Those Unwanted Phone Books?". TreeHugger. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  9. Guinness World Records 2016. Guinness World Records. 10 September 2015. p. 81. ISBN   9781910561034.
  10. "Most telephone directories torn in three minutes (male)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 24 April 2017.

Further reading