A phone book is not so much a listing of phone numbers as it is a guidebook for getting in touch with people. And so it is that Pacific Bell will start listing electronic mail and World Wide Web addresses in the white pages beginning next spring.
The decision by the San Francisco-based phone company is of more symbolic than practical importance, as it signals the increasingly widespread use of electronic means of communication. An estimated 1.2 million Californians have online access and e-mail addresses. As the popularity of the Internet global computer network has grown in the last year, so have requests from Pacific Bell customers for a way to list their e-mail or Web addresses.
"It's just another choice for contacting people," PacBell spokeswoman Linda Bonnikson said. "There are lots of people you'd rather send e-mail to than call."
Businesses have been printing their e-mail addresses and URLs--or universal resource locators--for their Web sites for some time in yellow pages display advertisements. Accommodating for listings in the white pages is not much different than listing a number for a second phone or fax machine, Bonnikson said. The cost will probably be similar too: about $1.75 a month, plus a one-time set-up charge in the $7 range.
Although California is home to the leading Internet companies, Pacific Bell is not the first phone company to make accommodations for cyberlistings in its phone books. Chicago-based Ameritech has allowed businesses to list their e-mail addresses and URLs in its white and yellow pages for about a year.
Fellow Baby Bell Nynex also allows businesses to list their e-mail and Web addresses in its yellow pages phone books for $7 to $8 a month. In early February, the phone company will allow businesses to include cyberlistings in the white pages as well for a similar fee.
In New York, Nynex is studying whether it should offer the service to residential customers, but so far the demand has come primarily from businesses that want to make customers aware of alternative methods of reaching them.
"Although there is a demand for this, it's not an overwhelming demand," said Nynex spokesman Phil Santoro, who said roughly one in 20 businesses is interested in the service. "You won't see a huge increase in the size of the phone book."