What are you doing with a printed phone book?

As the digital age progresses, more and more print publications are facing challenging times. And yet SaskTel continues to distribute more than 800,000 phone books every year.

What can you do with a phone book?

8 years ago
Duration 1:10
Some Regina residents tell Bonnie Allen about alternative uses for phone books.

After the recent delivery of new phone books, many are already gathering dust in doorways or propping up furniture. Yet few people take steps to opt out from receiving them.

This year SaskTel distributed 804,500 phone books, produced by its subsidiary DirectWest.

People can choose to not receive a phone book. However, according to SaskTel, as of 2014 only 37 people contacted the company to opt out of having a phone book.

"It's not something we promote," SaskTel spokeswoman Michelle Englot told CBC News. "As a company that is in the business of phone books, we're not going to go out and actively say 'Do you not want one?'"

It may not be widely known that people can opt out of receiving a printed copy of the phone book. (CBC)

Even though SaskTel has not done any market surveys to measure how many people use a phone book delivered to them, Englot believes they're still in demand.

"We have more people who phone and say 'I didn't get my phone book' or coming in to pick up copies of the phone book," she said.

SaskTel does track use of its online directory and noted that gets 920,000 searches per month.

The web-based directory seems to be the go-to source for many.

U of R student Lou-anne Stefankiw relies on a SaskTel app on her smartphone for directory listings. (CBC)

"I don't use the phone book anymore. I use the app on my phone that's called 411," said Lou-anne Stefankiw, one of several students CBC News spoke to on campus at the University of Regina.

"I Google everything now," said Tressa Nielsen, another U of R student, adding she considers phone books to be a waste of paper and ink.

SaskTel's opt-out feature was news to the students CBC News spoke to.

It also came as a surprise to the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council, an organization that promotes saving resources.

"If they won't promote it, we will," said executive director Joanne Fedyk, after learning about the no-book option when contacted for comment by CBC News. "It's always better to reduce."

SaskTel points out that its phone books are recyclable.

Yellow Pages switching to digital

Canada's largest phone book distributor, Yellow Pages Group, has embraced the transition from a print-based service to a digital format. Online, the company notes that people can choose to refuse its print directory and provides a link for that option.

Five years ago, when it began its shift to digital, the company stopped door-to-door delivery of the white pages in major cities across Canada unless a customer specifically requested the largely residential directory.

That reduced its phone book distribution from nearly 30 million copies in 2009 to 16 million directories in 2014.

"The reality is Yellow Pages is no longer a print directory company. We're now a digital media company," Yellow Pages V-P Francois Ramsay said. The company focuses on promoting its digital apps, such as

However, even with that shift, only two per cent of households in major cities have taken steps to opt out of receiving printed yellow pages.

While it's not clear why customers who never use a print directory don't take steps to opt out, Ramsay said it's clear that some people still rely on print yellow pages: such as seniors, people living in rural areas and anyone searching for a small business such as contractors and repairmen.

Replay the live chat below, or if you'd like to weigh in, leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Join online host Matt Kruchak from Monday to Friday between 6-8:45 a.m. on for a lively and engaging live chat. While chatting, tune into Saskatoon Morning on 94.1 FM with host Leisha Grebinski.

Opting out:

  • SaskTel: Contact DirectWest toll free at 1-800-667-8201.
  • Yellow Pages Group: Use the company's online form linked here.

With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen


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