Bookmarks

Bookmarks are hard to find. At least, I am seeing fewer and fewer of them floating around. Of course, with so many books available in e-book form, it’s no wonder that there are fewer bookmarks.

I like bookmarks, but often use anything but a bookmark to hold my place. The most frequent object I put toward this use is a business card. Business cards have the same thickness of a bookmark. They fit squarely between the pages. They do the job very well. I also feel less guilty about them sitting on my desk or in my wallet, going unused.

We are packing up for a move to a new house, and when I went to look for a business card for the book I’m reading, I couldn’t find one. The book is a hardcover, with a dust jacket, and that is like having a built-in bookmark. I just slide the end of the dust jacket between the pages I want marked.

Dust jacket bookmark
My dust-jacket bookmark.

Most things make terrible bookmarks. In a pinch, I can tear a sheet of paper and slide it between pages. It used to be that a piece of mail would do the trick, but there is so little of that around these days. Then there’s always the possibility of folding down the corner of a page, but avoid that kind of sadism.

E-books have fancy bookmarking capabilities which I rarely use. I don’t know why that is. My Kindle app allows me to place as many bookmarks as I want. Before e-books, the most bookmarks I ever used for one book was two: one to hold my place in the text, the other to keep my place in the endnotes, if they were particularly interesting. I have never found a reason to use more than one bookmark in an e-book. They are no even needed for endnotes because you can jump back and forth between the endnotes and text.

Audiobooks have the worst bookmarks. I love audiobooks but the bookmark system is virtually unusable. The reason for this is that I don’t know I want to mark something until I’ve heard it, at which point I’ve past it. It is complicated and time-consuming to back up to right where I want the bookmark. If I feel the need to bookmark (or annotate) an audiobook, I usually listen along with a copy of the print or e-book.

The thing I miss most about bookmarks is the nice collection I grew from used bookstores. More e-book reading and audiobook listening, combined with fewer used bookstores means fewer opportunities for new bookmarks.

Most magazines come with built-in bookmarks: those annoying cards that ask you to renew your subscription, or send a gift subscription to a friend. When a new magazine arrives in the mail, I rip out all of those cards, and toss all but one–and then use that one as a bookmark until I am finished with the magazine.

Published by Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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