The Last Ever Phone Book: A Fond Farewell!

The last ever edition of The Phone Book has fallen through our letterboxes. One final print run of 18 million copies is being delivered before this paper telephone directory disconnects

By March 2024, the physical Phone Book will be no more. A staple in most British homes, this BT telephone directory has connected people for generations.

A trusted source for over 140 years, The Phone Book began as an idea back in 1880 – a year after the public telephone service was introduced to Britain.

It started with just 248 London personal and business names, but no numbers yet. A project that pre-empted the need for a phone number directory. By 1896, the phone book grew to 350 pages of  81,000 entries. And in 1914, BT had the largest single printing contract in the UK, printing 1.5 million copies of their telephone directory.

However, in 2005, following the dawn of the internet, The Phone Book had already began migrating to an online search tool.

The first Phone Book from January 1880. It contained details of 248 names in London, with no phone numbers yet.



The last ever phone book symbolises changed times

Before the internet and social media, you had to look someone up in The Phone Book if you wanted to contact them. With Google, websites and social media, it’s now pretty easy to track a person or a business down with a few clicks of a button.

Environmental concerns has also played a role in the decision to stop making the print product. Changes began in 2010, when the ‘compact’ phone book save 2,000 tonnes of paper each year and could fit through letterboxes. When single-use plastic became a wide-spread concern in 2019, BT removed the plastic wrapping from 22 million copies to reduce waste even further.

But the decision to ditch the print copy looked inevitable when the company redesigned their interactive website and The Phone Book search tool. This proved to be a more accurate, easily updated tool with 24/7 access to important contacts. The last ever printed phone book was always on the horizon.


The last ever Phone Book. Image features A selection of The Phone Book covers throughout the years.

A selection of The Phone Book covers throughout the years including an image of their new online directory. Credit: BT.


Faisal Mahomed, Director of BT’s UK portfolio businesses, said in a statement: “This is a positive change, and it’s something many of our customers have been asking us for.

“However, it’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly. We know there are a small number of customers who may still rely on a printed phone book.

“To make sure they aren’t left behind, we have consulted with Ofcom and are proactively putting measures in place to support these customers.”

If you are someone who prefers a physical copy or something you can manually flick through, a pdf version will be available. This can be downloaded and printed from the BT website.


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Hannah McLaren

I've worked at DC Thomson for six years! I began as an intern at My Weekly and The Scots Magazine, which was extended by a few months to help out at The People's Friend. I then covered maternity as Celebrity Editor for My Weekly, before I became Multimedia Journalist at The Scots Magazine. Currently I'm writing digital content across each title.