Bookmarks

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Bookmarks2Are you a bookmarker?  Or a page corner turner? Perhaps you’re a memory artist, flicking through the pages until you are back to where you left off.

Of course if you’re the e-reader type then you have no choice – it’s the little flag or it’s nothing.  But even without the flag the e-reader remembers.  If you want to lose your way in an e-book you might have to do it metaphorically.

Me? I’m an old-fashioned lover of bookmarks.  Out and proud.

Naturally the ones I love best are those made by my children.  Usually wonky, occasionally weird and always just plain wonderful.  Sometimes the kids ask after their bookmarks.

“Do you ever use it, Mum?”

“All the time,” I say and it’s true, even though using those precious treasures makes me nervous.  What if I lose one in an unloved library book?  Do libraries keep a collection of found bookmarks?

So I also use my losable bookmarks, the eclectic freebies I’ve collected along the way from both kinds of bookshops (bricks as well as bytes).  Some are funny, some are handsome, some – like the one listing all the Mac and PC shortcut keys – are incredibly useful.  I wonder why every bookshop doesn’t include a bookmark with every sale?  It need only be a paper one.  Instead they spend often their meagre marketing budgets on lovely, printed paper bags.  Surely customers are far more likely to keep the bookmark than the bag?

Bookmark3I have a beautiful business card that I use when I am ‘being an author’ but now it occurs to me that I should order up a box of business bookmarks instead.

But I like beautiful bookmarks best.  Advertisements for children’s books are a favourite if they include a gorgeous illustration. And some of those for sale at the bookshop counters are just delicious.  But with so many already to hand, I’m rarely tempted. The last one I paid for was a souvenir of a work trip to Norfolk Island, with an historical drawing of a convict woman.  But I didn’t enjoy the trip as much as I thought I might and the bookmark was very expensive and, frankly, Geoffrey Robertson is just plain wrong about self-government on that island and so every time I look at the bookmark it makes me cross. I’d be happy to lose that one in a library book.

Full disclosure: sometimes, not often, just occasionally, I fold over a corner.  I know.  I’m not proud of it.  My daughter does it too.

My son has a metal bookmark with a dangling elephant that he treasures.  It was a gift from his late Grandma, bookmarkJSmy mother, and he uses it often.  I honour his commitment to it but that dangling elephant would drive me bonkers.  And it seems that my Mum may have found awkwardly shaped bookmarks equally irritating.  As a dorky teen I made a cross-stitch bookmark for her.  She was a loving Mum and I’m quite sure she appreciated the effort but I found it, unused but kept close, in the bottom of my inheritance: her knitting basket.  The cross-stitch bookmark lay nestled next to a small unfinished project, still on the knitting needles.  A complex basket weave in blue, I suspect the project was a jumper destined for my son.  Mum was the queen of the complicated pattern until the dementia took that joy away too.

Of course Mum was right not to use my bookmark.  Textile ones are inevitably too thick and too floppy.  A good bookmark must meet the Good Bookmark Requirements: it must be rigid, slim and not too wide.  Card is preferable to paper but paper can be improved by lamination.  It must sit unobtrusively in my book while I read on, without sticking out too far (or indeed, at all).  It should not be too precious to lose.  It should be beautiful.

But, really, a good bookmark can fail all of the Requirements but one: it should make me happy.  And sometimes all it need do to make me happy is take me straight back to my place in the story.

*This post inspired by Perkinsy at Stumbling Through the Past, who recently wrote a lovely post about reading, bookmarks and cats.

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15 responses »

  1. I agree with your criteria for bookmarks Michelle. A good book should be accompanied by a beautiful bookmark. I have made a collection of bookmarks from second hand bookshops all over the east coast of Australia. If I am travelling and want to remember where the nearest good second hand bookshop is I just go to my bookmark collection. I throw out all advertisements, but not bookmarks so spending money on producing a good bookmark is a wise investment of bookshops in my opinion.

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  2. Yes order business bookmarks right away. (and don’t ever fold a page corner again!). I sometimes use dust jacket flaps, but mostly whatever piece of paper is to hand. I’m afraid when I’m doing reviews my bookmark is nearly always a writing pad and often the pen as well.

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    • At least I don’t crack the spines of paperbacks by turning the front cover back on itself. That always makes me cringe. Then it makes me wonder why I cringe – surely the true value of a book is the content, not the artifact? But I also confess to loving books as artifacts too.

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      • It’s true isn’t it that most readers also love books. I was trying to think of a similar relationship, certainly not movies and tv sets! Maybe driving and cars, but there the ‘shape’ of the artifact determines the experience.

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    • Haha, Bill, yes my bookmarks – like an old envelope – is often a writing pad too though I usually just write at the back of the book and be done with it. Writing in a book (in erasable pencil) is OK, folding a page is not!

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  3. A delightful post Michelle and very timely. You see I’ve been searching for bookmarks during my trip to Norway and Sweden to bring home as gifts for my book club friends. I thought it’d be easy, but not so. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places but I started to wonder if the bookmark was becoming extinct. I would be very sad if the life of the beautiful, useful and good-vibe-inducing bookmark was over. I searched book stores, museums, art galleries and even ventured into Scandinavian souvenir shops! Eventually, I scored in the Göteborg Stad Museum where I found a lovely bookmark with illustrations of butterflies from the journals of a 17th century Swedish botanist. So the story of searching for a bookmark ended well but not without some simmering concern along the way. 🙂

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    • Wow – hard to believe a bookmark was so hard to find, glad it ended well though. You were very keen – I probably would have settled for a museum postcard (I’ve used those as bookmarks too). And I LOVE Scandinavian souvenir shops. Where else can you buy horned helmets for all your friends and relations?

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  4. I love bookmarks – but all my lovely bookmarks I have in a shoebox – I think I’m going to work out a way of displaying them one day. This is because of my 50th! For my 50th, yes I’m over 50, a dear friend gave me a hand cross-stitched bookmark and it disappeared. I’m pretty sure it ended up at the library but by the time I worked that out it was too late – though I must say I never thought that they might have a lost property of bookmarks. Hmm, now I’m kicking myself that they might have! Anyhow, I now use bookmarks in my books – because I NEVER EVER EVER fold corners. I would feel personally wounded if I did that! So, my bookmarks are usually scraps of papers, mostly old envelopes, but sometimes flyers. A shame, but I really really don’t want to lost a bookmark again! Even those cute little freebies you get.

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    • What a shame, to lose a handmade bookmark. But it seems a shame to keep them in a box too. Maybe arrange them collage fashion and put them in a frame? And I consider myself duly chastised about page corner folding…;-) If it is at all mitigating, I’d never do it to a book I’d borrowed.

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