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?
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, my 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.