Does anyone still really use the book?


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I recently read “The Phone Book / The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads” by Ammon Shea.

It was an interesting and fun read. Did you know that early phone books included detailed directions on how to use the telephone? For example, a New York City telephone directory from 1885 gave the following instructions:

To Call

Press in the button and turn the crank once only; unhook the listening telephone (receiver) and put it close to your ear, when Central Office will enquire: “What number?” Give Central Office and number of person wanted, and upon receiving the answer “All right,” hang up the receiver, and wait until your bell rings, then place the receiver to your ear and address person called. If you do not immediately hear his voice, the delay – except in rare cases – is owing to his failure to promptly answer the call. Therefore, hang up the receiver, press in the button and ring twice, then put the receiver again to your ear. Speak in a moderate, clear tone, with mouth three or four inches from transmitter. Loud speaking jars the mechanism of the instrument and produces a confused sound. When through do not fail to hang up the receiver, and call off, pressing in button and turning crank once. If you wish to call for a subscriber before disconnection is made, hang up your receiver, press in button, and turn crank once; then immediately place receiver to your ear and Central Office will answer.

If subscribers will respond quickly when their bells are rung the service will be much improved.

If bell rings once pay no attention – you are not wanted. If it rings twice you are wanted. Unhook receiver and speak immediately. The receiver, except when at your ear, must be always on the hook.

We can laugh about that passage now; but think about it, in 1885 the telephone was new technology and nobody had any idea how to use one. In 1886 a new advertising medium was introduced when Reuben H. Donnelly produced the first Yellow Pages directory featuring business names and phone numbers, categorized by the types of products and services provided. Wow, that makes the Yellow Pages nearly as old as the telephone itself! Today, with cell phones and the internet in play, do you laugh when someone mentions the book?

Recent research from the Local Search Association conducted by Burke, shows that despite a clear move among most users in favor of search, yellow pages are still a respectable advertising medium when in comes to phone calls. And in today’s economy; I’m betting that getting the phone to ring is no laughing matter to a business owner.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


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