Moscow phone book, 1930.
In telephony, a telephone directory (also called a telephone book
and phonebook) is a listing of telephone subscribers in a geographical
area or subscribers to services provided by the organisation that publishes
Subscriber names are generally listed in alphabetical order, together with
their postal or street address and telephone number. Every subscriber in the
geographical coverage area is usually listed, but some subscribers can request
the exclusion of their number from the directory. Their number is then said to
be "unlisted" (American English), "ex-directory" (British English) or
"private" (Australia and New Zealand).
In the case of unlisted numbers, practices as to Caller-ID vary by
jurisdiction. Sometimes, the Caller-ID on outbound calls is blank; in other
jurisdictions, unlisted numbers still show unless the caller dials a blocking
code; in still others, the customer must pay a fee for automatic blocking.
Under current rules and practices, cell 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 a
significant percentage of subscribers who seek to avoid telemarketers.
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. Within the geographical reach of the Court, the Feist
ruling has resulted in the availability of many innovative telephone directory
services on CD-ROM and the World Wide Web.
Telephone directories can be published in hard copy
or in electronic form. In the latter case, the directory can be provided as an
online service through proprietary terminals or over the Internet, or on
physical media like CD-ROM.
the Minitel videotex
system originated as an attempt by
France Télécom to rid itself of its paper publishing costs by forcing all
telephone users to use Minitel terminals instead.
Switzerland, a few payphones
are now accompanied with electronic telephone directory terminals instead of
paper directories, and phone users are charged for each search.
A telephone directory may also be called a phone book or may be
known by the colour of the paper it is printed on.
- White pages generally indicates personal or alphabetic listings.
Yellow pages, sometimes called the A2Z, generally indicates a
business directory classified by business type or services provided,
almost always with paid advertising.
Black pages, sometimes called a "reverse telephone directory".
- Other colours may have other meanings, depending on a country's customs.
Information on government agencies is often printed on blue or green pages.
A telephone directory may also provide instructions about how to use the
telephone service in the local area, may give important numbers for
emergency services, utilities, hospitals, doctors, and organisations who
can provide support in times of personal crisis. It may also have
civil defence or
emergency management information. There may be transit maps, postal code
guides, or stadium seating charts, as well as advertising.
The first telephone directory, consisting of a single page, was issued on
February 21, 1878.
It covered 50 subscribers in New Haven,
Reuben H. Donnelly company asserts that it published the first classified
directory, or yellow pages, for
Chicago, Illinois, in 1886. The first
British telephone directory was published in 1880.
reverse telephone directory, reverse directory, or criss-cross
directory, is a telephone directory in which the entries are in order by
address (first by city, then by street, then by house number), and were used
to find out the name of a subscriber with a particular address or to find the
neighbors of a particular address. They were fairly common until the 1960s as a
separately published book, or sometimes included at the back of the regular
telephone directory with each section on a different colour paper. Printed
reverse directories have become less common with the availability of telephone
CD-ROM and on the Internet
with advanced searching features.
They are not well known to the general public since they have generally
been available on a limited basis to telephone companies or government
private investigators know which
public libraries have them in their collection. In addition, some
telephone companies have made the information generally available through
little known services, such as the "2080 service" in
Chicago (now discontinued), where a call to the exchange and the number
2080 produced an operator who would give the name and address of any other
number in that exchange. But such services remain online.
Instead of looking up a number, a call to
directory assistance (4-1-1
in the NANP) will
give the same results if a book is not available. However, there is usually a
significant charge for this.
United Kingdom, Ireland and
many other countries it is illegal to perform a reverse lookup from a phone
number, although some companies have attempted to sell reverse directories.
CD-ROM telephone directories supplied by telephone operators are now sold in
an encrypted format that allows only lookups from a name and address.
In Jersey, the local paper phone book has a form of reverse directory with
the phone number and then the name and address, for example:
- 712345 – Mr A Smith, 1 Any Street, St, Helier
- 712346 – Mrs B Johnson, 2 Any Street, St Helier
It exists after the regular directory in the phone book.