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The Case for a Paper Address Book

California address book... by The Young Ryan G on Flickr

Yesterday I had a bit of a scare. Some people rather important to me left my apartment in a car, and we’d had a big snowstorm this weekend. I didn’t know how good the roads were, and when I called them to ask about something trivial a few minutes later, none of them answered their cell phones. I started to panic and dire scenarios rushed through my head.

Finally one of them picked up his phone, and everything was fine – they just had their phones on silent or out of reach! But during my panic when my imagination was running wild, I realized I didn’t have emergency contact numbers for any of them, and they were the people I would call to get those numbers for each other!

I have a paper address book with all of my emergency contacts in it somewhere, but I don’t know where it is, and I know it’s terribly out of date. After my little panic attack this morning, I’m planning to update it. But emergencies aren’t the only reason you ought to have a paper backup of your numbers.

Your phone might break. If you’re relying on your cell phone to store all of the numbers you call, you might encounter a rude awakening at some point. I did, my sophomore year of college. The screen on my cell phone busted, leaving me without the internal address book, caller ID, or text messaging.

I suddenly realized how many people I called daily without knowing their phone numbers! I had to spend that week making a paper backup that I carried in my wallet just to make phone calls. I still have that same piece of paper in my wallet now, just in case.

Backups of backups. Since the invention of the annoying “I lost my phone and need all of your phone numbers!” Facebook group, cell phone companies realized that backing up contact lists was important. But even an electronic backup can fail, or not be accessible when you need it. For some of them, this is as simple as printing out the electronic backup list every so often.

Addresses. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of people’s phone numbers… but not so many physical addresses on file. Every time I need to mail something to a friend or family member, I have to hunt down their address through Facebook, a mutual friend, or asking the person directly.

Emergencies. Feel free to run through the nightmare scenarios in your head yourself – I’ve hit my quota of those this week already! Basically, relying solely on electronic information storage can be really bad if the power is out when you need that information most.

Address books are cheap – most dollar stores have them, or you could print your own sheets and just use a binder you have laying around. But here’s my big tip for keeping a paper address book: Write in pencil. People change addresses and phone numbers all the time, so instead of crossing things out or keeping the White-Out companies in business by yourself, just write in pencil so you can change it later.

12 responses to “The Case for a Paper Address Book”

  1. Tweets that mention The Case for a Paper Address Book: Poorer Than You --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephanie, Stefan Knapen. Stefan Knapen said: RT @stephonee: Digging out my paper address book and kicking it old school: […]

  2. Rachel

    This is a good reminder. I currently store all my addresses online in a spreadsheet, but it’s no good when the power fails. And the tip about writing in pencil is great! People really do seem to move around quite a bit.

  3. Ella

    I think I have the opposite problem… All the apps on my phone automatically store my contact information (and calendars) EVERYWHERE- facebook, Google, my computer hard drive, etc. etc. I have lost track of where all the correct information really is. I have polluted the entire world with my friends’ phone numbers and memos… sorry, world.

  4. Jason Hommel

    I can totally relate! I’ve tried doing that in the past but it’s easy to misplace the paper address book. I know how much of a pain it is to get the phone numbers if you lost it. In this time and age, your contacts is a great asset.

  5. John Hunter

    Paper address book certainly makes sense for some things.

    Google Voice is also very nice – making it very easy to collect additional data (addresses…) that you want for some people. And they allow you to export it into various formats (or simple csv to import into a spreadsheet). My preference is just to print out an electronic copy, rather than maintain a solely paper one.

  6. Tom

    This is a really great idea. I have a bunch of electronic backups of personal information but honestly Ive never thought about sitting down and writing it all out.. Ok I am going to print it because I have terrible handwriting.

  7. Carico

    I have all my addresses and phone numbers on my computer so you bring up an interesting point and I think this is a sign I should probably get myself a paper address book.

  8. Jerry

    Great reminder, and I hope it leads to many people having a hard copy backup. This is also important because – yikes – sometimes phones or PDAs can unexpectedly die, and you need some insurance that you don’t lose everything on the machine!

  9. Elizabeth Yuen

    Aaaah this is an amazing article! I am seriously opening up my address book/planner and writing in my important numbers and addresses. I don’t know a single one of my friends and most of my familys numbers off the top of my head! Technology you have made things too easy for us!

  10. Ryan @ Planting Dollars

    I like to keep paper copies as well, but I always seem to completely demolish the address book within a matter of months. Now I just use a notebook and double it up as a daily tracker for fitness and finance. Probably the cheapest way to store info and I never forget anything since I always write it down.

  11. Linda Bradshaw

    People are frequently teasing me because I have a “real” address book that I keep in my purse with all of my important telephone numbers and addresses in it. And yet I am frequently called by those same people wo tell me that their electronic thing-a-ma-jig died or got lost and they need me to help them with that information. With all of the fancy electronics with their tiny buttons that you have to push and pull and hold ad click a certain combination code, it just seems so much easier to just open a book!

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