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Pages to come At Hand

At Hand, Pacific Bell's version of online yellow pages, launches with 1.2 million merchant listings from across California.

Want to get hypnotized in San Francisco? How about Los Angeles? Then check out At Hand, Pacific Bell's online yellow pages that launch today.

At Hand boasts 1.2 million merchant listings from across California. But Pacific Telesis bristles when the new service is simply called online yellow pages, similar to BigBook, which also has national listings with maps.

"It's a shame to call At Hand yellow pages," said spokesman David Dickstein. It's much more than that, because At Hand allows more specific searches and provides editorial content, he contended.

For instance, you could look for a French restaurant in your town and get an interactive map. If that restaurant has paid for an enhanced listing, you could also find out other information, such as whether it takes American Express or if it serves bouillabaise.

With editorial content from 14 publishers, including HarperCollins Publishers, Hearst HomeArts, New York Times Company Magazines Group and American Express Publishing, you might also find an article on French cooking.

At Hand is supported by advertisers, whose banner ads are matched with search results. The project shows that Pacific Bell is serious about jumping into the increasingly crowded online phone listing business, according to analysts Allen Weiner of Dataquest and Jerry Michalski of Release 1.0.

"I'm very impressed with At Hand," Weiner said.

Weiner added that by conquering only one state--albeit the most populous one in the union--they're able to add more depth than BigBook, which covers the entire country. "BigBook is going for a broader brush stroke. This is for California."

Michalski said, "I liked what I saw." But "it wasn't earth shattering."