Friday, March 26, 2010

Mark My Words

I'm a bookmark rotater. Every time I start a new book, I slip in a different page-saver. I think of reading as an experience: each book has its own feel, smell, appearance and thus merits its own bookmark.

I have stacks of them in various drawers throughout my apartment. Creased and folded thin paper ones from Borders, sturdy laminated ones from elementary school art class, glossy cardboard American Girl Dolls ones, elegantly artistic ones straight from the check-out line at Barnes & Noble, or some stamped with readerly quips ("Ssh! I'm reading"). Some of my bookmarks aren't bookmarks at all: Phillies tickets, a swatch of red-hearts-patterned stationery paper that caught my eye. If I start a book somewhere away from my stash, I'll use a PostIt or a receipt or even a tissue. But it's always different, a marker linked to that particular text. Of course I reuse my bookmarks- their recycling is what infuses them with that treasured lived-in quality- but from one reading to the next, each deserves a breather.

It's been a while since I bought a new bookmark, but not for lack of temptation. I love these from swissmiss:

Obviously the migration of reading to a digital platform eradicates bookmarks. Saving your place becomes automated, and dog-earing a random page becomes a computerized mimicry:
"On any content page, use the scroll wheel to select the small triangle in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Click the scroll wheel and you’ll see the small triangle now looks like it was folded down."
What about my Phillies tickets? What about those American Girl Dolls bookmarks I've saved for over a decade? What about the comfort and familiarity of seeing a book sitting on your nightstand with a marker sticking out as a symbol of those hard-earned pages gone by, and the reward that is the rest of those pages to come?

Computerized bookmarking in general is a useful tool: flagging websites for future reference, highlighting or recording a note in Word to track your reading progress. But electronically bookmarking for-pleasure reading is just one more depersonalization of the reading experience. I'll take the frustration of bookmarks slipping out into the bottom of my purse over scroll-wheel-clicking any day.

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