Bigger, Better and More Numbers
Brandon Sun, March 2, 2006
This year it should be a little bit easier to look up that phone number, thanks to Sue Palmer and the Phone Book Company. You may have noticed that the 2006 version of the Brandon-based phone directory is substantially thicker and heavier than last year’s. “We’ve got 50 per cent more listings than last year,” said Palmer, who runs the Phone Book Company.
The new listings come from the wider geographical area that Palmer’s phone book has expanded to cover. “We’ve expanded our distribution quite a bit this year,” she said, “from 48,000 to 72,000.” The newly-expanded book now covers the entire southwestern portion of Manitoba, according to Palmer, with listings from the Saskatchewan and U.S. borders as far north as Winnipegosis and further east than MacGregor. “We’ve had many people asking about a phone book that covered the whole area,” she said. “Basically, this book covers the area of two MTS books.”
Although people who were already covered by the “Brandon and Area” phone books that Palmer has been putting out since 1996 will benefit from the new listings, she said that the biggest beneficiaries are the homes that will receive this book for the first time. “We’ve been to a lot of new towns,” she said, “and they are just ecstatic. The book they are familiar with doesn’t have Brandon in it…..As we were unloading them, people were literally grabbing them.”
“The expanded listings are just one of the features of the new phone books,” said Palmer. “The large print is a huge plus as well. There’s also a cross-reference section, numbers-to-names for the entire geographic area. There are postal codes with all of the mailing addresses, and a postal code section that covers all of Manitoba with the exception of Winnipeg.”
It was larger print that first got Palmer into the business a decade ago. “I saw a large-print phone book in Kamloops,” she recalled. “I have really, really bad eyesight, and I was so impressed.” Now, after 10 years, she’s finally been able to put out a directory like that for all of southwestern Manitoba. “It’s an awful lot of work and an awful lot more money to print the books,” she said, “but it’s where we’ve been going. Every year we’ve been a little bit bigger, but it won’t get any bigger than this – otherwise the book will be too hard to handle.”
To cut down on the size of the book, while keeping it large-print, Palmer has employed a number of tricks. “In the yellow section, we try not to duplicate any categories,” she said, noting that it saves people flipping between categories, as well as advertisers having to hedge their bets by buying ad space under multiple headings, ‘furnaces’ as well as ‘heaters’ for example. To further save space, each surname is listed only once, with first names and addresses following. Palmer said that she believes it’s easier to find names that way.
Although it is possible for anyone to buy a copy of the phone listings directly from MTS, Palmer says she prefers to type it all in by hand. “It’s a little more thorough but it takes an awful lot of time. We’ve got about half a dozen people working from the beginning of November until the end of January, between typing and proofing.” And there’s no shortage of proofing. “There’s an incredible amount of cross-checking,” she confirmed.
“Most people should have the new phone books in their possession already,” said Palmer, who is delivering stacks of them to a lot of the rural communities by herself, in her van, then relying on local groups to hand them out. “It’ll probably be another week, one van-load at a time,” she said.