Yellow Pages spokesman Andre Leblanc in Montreal said fewer than one in three people use the white pages to look up numbers.
In 2010 Yellow Pages Group (YPG) eliminated automatic distribution in eight markets including Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
But customers who still want to get the good old copy of the white pages can order it by calling toll free or logging on to the YPG website.
“The big difference is we’re going from automatic distribution to on request,” Leblanc said.
“At any given time if you want a residential book for your area you can call or go to ypg.com and order a book that will be delivered to your place.”
Meanwhile the Yellow Pages book will continue to be distributed as usual.
For years both the white and yellow pages have been distributed in the same book for the Windsor market, Leblanc said.
But in future there will be two separate books, should customers want both of them.
In the larger markets that saw their white pages directories automatically eliminated two years ago user demand for the books has only been five per cent, “reflecting changing consumer habits” such as looking up phone numbers online, the company says.
The YPG network of sites, including Canda.411 and YellowPages.ca gets eight million unique visitors a month, while mobile apps have been downloaded more than four million times.
Not distributing paper directories has been a boon for the environment, helping the company reduce its use of paper by almost 45 per cent in the last three years.
Leblanc says yellow pages, however, continue to remain popular, largely because the directory is used differently.
He said business customers look for “reliability” and read the display advertising which details what small businesses such as home renovators, offer.
He said by contrast online business directory sites can overwhelm consumers with information and can be confusing in terms of exactly which businesses serve distinct markets.
Meanwhile the number of pages in the local directories has been slowly declining.
This year’s yellow directory clocks in at 406 pages versus 469 last year.
Leblanc said this doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer businesses listed but the display ads could be smaller, possibly reflecting spending in a weaker economy.
White residential pages went from 270 in 2011 to 248 this year but this could reflect a slightly smaller type size and not because people are dropping their land lines in high volumes and therefore solely relying on mobile phones.
That pheenomenon is “not as high as you would think,” especially for smaller markets like Windsor, he said.