Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Booking the Marks


Three vintage bookmarks discovered in old books.

My scanner did not reproduce their colours and quality well.

The first two are machine embroidered ribbon. The third, gold embossed leather.

In keeping with its probable late Victorian origin, the first, May the Giver and Receiver Meet in Heaven features a verse: Sweet and peaceful be thy life, serene as eve of summer day...

The second, Faith, Hope and Charity, repeats a verse from the hymn, Rock of Ages.

The third, likely of later manufacture, celebrates H.M.S. Victory :"On the morning of 21st October, 1805. The combined fleets of France and Spain then in sight," and purports to reproduce Lord Nelson's Prayer.

Ephemera of an age.

Being an uncivilized clod, I of course, seldom use a proper bookmark. I'll dog-ear a page, use another book , a pen, a candy wrapper -- or just about anything else conveniently at hand and relatively flat.

Today's bookmark explosion is wasted on me. No matter how beautiful their composition or how clever their message, for me they are advertising dollars ill spent.

They usually go in the recycle box as litter.

Yet bookmarks are often touted as one of those things a writer must have as an advertising freebie.

I have to wonder if they represent more a rite of passage than anything truly practical. A symbol and proof, a reassurance and confirmation, of a level attained.

In other words, an article of faith, as it were.

Some people love them. They see them as secondary business cards, doing double duty at cons and book signings.

And there it seems to stop. Like an internal office memo.

I did read of one creative use. Someone included her bookmark every time she paid a bill by snail. However, electronic commerce reduces that attractive option.

I assume writers w/bookmarks make sure their local library and bookseller have a supply.

One also reads of the guerilla tactic of sneaking up and down aisles of the bookstore turning their own or a favourite author face out -- but never of sliding a bookmark between the pages of random books in the genre at the library.

As charming as many are, for me, bookmarks are a tired convention and an exercise passe. A waste.

51 comments:

kmfrontain said...

I often use the book jacket, just slip it over the number of pages I read and insert it into the correct place. Or a lette-sized envelope. I never lose track of a letter sized envelope inside a page. They're thick enough to stay firm for a while, plus you don't forget a bill.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I agree. I never use a bookmark.

Like I said before--Koosies are the wave of the writing future. Why not give swag someone can use.

spyscribbler said...

I agree completely!! I hate taking them, because I know they won't be used, and I hate not accepting them, for obvious reasons.

I loved getting a coaster from JA Konrath. I didn't use it, either, but it's still in the book. I don't know why.

Bernita said...

Karen, yes, book jackets serve well.Use them a lot.

SS, so much of it is just...clutter.
The idea of a gift is nice, but fresh ideas are few and far.

Bernita said...

His coasters fitted with his titles nicely, Natasha.

ChristineEldin said...

I always dogear books, but I still love bookmarks.
Your photo is gorgeous!

Jaye Wells said...

Completely agree. If you ever go to a big convention like RWA, there's a Goody Room. Every author there drops off a veritable cornucopia of promo materials. Ranging from book marks to condoms to magnets to Band Aids. I always grab a few things, but it all either ends up in the trash or cluttering my purse or desk until I clean them out. I've never thrown out an ARC though.

jason evans said...

I'm always finding bits of things to use as bookmarks, so an advertising one slipped in would definitely get use. I'm sure I'd lose it, though.

BernardL said...

You caught me. I receive fancy book marks from organizations, and I always end up using a torn off label from the TV Guide or some other scrap. :)

Dave F. said...

I drink two pitcher's of iced green tea a day. (it's a gentle, antioxidant buzz. I hate soda, lactose intolerant, and fruit juices are too acid for my tummy. Water is so tasteless.)
The tea boxes have these 1 inch by 4 inch dividers between the bags and I use them as bookmarks. Every book I own has a bookmark in it. I use the metal ones for the books I'm reading and the paper ones for the paperbacks and books I plan to read.

Did I say "plan"...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Chris. If they were in better shape I suppose they would be a "collectable."

"I've never thrown out an ARC though."
Exactly, Jaye.
Think even a cover with an excerpt would be better swag.

One of the problems w/bookmarks, Jason, is the end-use dominates, not the information on it.

Much like me, Bernard.

I have been known to use the tea bag itself, Dave.

Robyn said...

I'll use anything at hand, but my mom did get me started with animal bookmarks- little turtles or ladybugs attached to a paper clip kind of thing. My problem is that I read different books at the same time and leave them in different places, so I always forget where the bookmarks are when I need them.

Bernita said...

Robyn, those little post-it note tabs are probably the most practical. I use those on research volumes that I don't care to dog-ear.

Charles Gramlich said...

I went the bookmark route with Cold in the Light but didn't think it did much, so I haven't done it for the Taleran books.

However, personally, I always use bookmarks for my own reading. I have dozens scattered everywhere and I find them very convenient.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, I am apalled that you torture books so. Hah. I NEVER dog ear, but I manage to get food on damned near every book I own. So goes to show I am a hypocrite if I chastize you over dog-eared pages.

Bookmark tip: Paint chips. Steal a few chips from the Wal*Mart or other Big Chain Store when you go visit. They are free, sturdy, and just the right size.

But I like the idea of inserting my own bookmarks advertising me into otehrs' books. I'll have to ponder that one...

writtenwyrdd

Bernita said...

I supect you are more organized than I, Charles.

Written, I didn't mention the food stains and crumbs,did I?
Eating and reading go together to my mind.
I also write notes in margins.
Books are mine, to be read and enjoyed as I see fit. Not some holy artifact to be preserved for future generations.
It's the mental content, not the physical form so much, that I worship.

Lisa said...

I don't think many of the promotional gizmos used to promote books are worth the expense. Postcards are probably the most expensive and least effective, I'll use bookmarks I get in bookstores, but that doesn't mean that I pay attention to what's printed on it. Honestly, I don't think that there is much that helps to promote the sale of a book (at least from a reader's perspective) beyond placement and reviews and interviews. Author blogs may help with a handful of additional sales, but I doubt they do more than that. I'm with you.

Bernita said...

"I'll use bookmarks I get in bookstores, but that doesn't mean that I pay attention to what's printed on it."

Exactly, Lisa.

raine said...

I think bookmarks are wasted on me as ADVERTISING attempts. If I have one handy, I'll use it. Read it or follow through to check out the author? Nope.
(Although the ones here are lovely).
And I'm also just as likely to use a scrap piece of paper, bill, whatever.
But confess I can't bring myself to dog-ear, though I know it's a silly sentiment, lol.

bookfraud said...

well, only you could mine blogging gold from bookmarks.

those bookmarks you have are awesome. you should put them on e-bay -- righteous bucks to be had.

i agree that bookmarks are a marketing tool that has far exceeded its freshness date. they've become landfill. and when someone gives me one as a gift, i have to force a smile and say, "thank you." i always manage to lose them, only to find them on the bedroom floor or under the covers, which explained why i slept so poorly the previous evening.

Bernita said...

Raine, it took me years to get over the prohibition against dog-earing. Some books, like hardcovers, I'd never consider doing it to them, but paperbacks? Sure.

Thank you, Book.
Think they are a little too tattered to grab a collector's eye.
Yes, I think any novelty has long worn off.

Gabriele C. said...

Dog earing pages? The horror.

I love bookmarks. I have fine, handmade ones in leather, others with pressed flowers, and one in brass filigree work, but I also like the ones that come as advertising; I use them mostly in non fiction and during travels.

There no such thing as too many bookmarks, not for me. :)

Bernita said...

That's lovely, Gabriele.
But has a bookmark ever or often impelled you to buy the book it advertises?

StarvingWriteNow said...

I'd agree with you on several points--I'm not much of a bookmark user either. I'm sure I'd be tempted to buy them, but I know the bookmarks would be mouldering away in a pile somewhere while I'm using an old gum wrapper to keep my page!

Bernita said...

WriteNow, I can never find one when I need one.

Gabriele C. said...

I have my bookmarks in one drawer. :)

Bernita, most of the bookmarks came with books I had bought. But I think if I got some at a convention - very unlikely since I don't like a gathering of people - I'd look for more info about the books online and maybe buy them.

Bernita said...

You're another orderly and organized person, Gabriele.
I admire it.

Ric said...

Dog earred? I was terrorized by a librarian once while being taught the correct way to turn the pages of a book. Every time I think about folding that corner, those steely fingers come quickly to mind.

I love bookmarks. Currently using some very cool Lord of the Rings ones with great pictures of Frodo and Aragorn. In a pinch, I'll use the dust jacket flap. Don't think I've ever bought a book based on a promotion though. You may be correct in assuming the fad has passed.

Anonymous said...

I don't use Post-It notes as much as I used to. They can lift off the ink and sometimes even tear pages of an ageing paperback.

Phone message slips, napkins, interac banking receipts - the bigger, thinner and more limp the paper the better. Most bookmarks are stiff and tend to fall out of the book, given half a chance.

I am a messy consumer and find some pleasure in noting, via the residue, what I ate the last time I read a certain book. One book was toasted cheese sandwiches; another, meaty pasta; another was Turtles. And I rely on floury/oily fingerprints to "blaze" successful recipes. Call me a forensic grease analyst.

When I published my corporate history, the way I commemorated it to myself was not through a bookmark but an on-screen print of its registration in the federal library. It seemed so beautifully official. That, and the cheque.

Asa

Shauna Roberts said...

Like Charles, I have dozens of bookmarks. Many did not start life as bookmarks; rather than throw away the postcards my friends and relatives send me from exotic locales, I keep them to use as bookmarks.

So I do pick up and keep authors' bookmarks. I probably have only bought one or two books ever because of a bookmark, though.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

I also have heaps of bookmarks in the right hand drawer of my desk and I definitely use them. For each new book I read, I choose one that had an appropriate picture for the book. Ohat doesn't mean I have any idea what the bookmark is advertising and I have never been enticed to buy one of the books advertised.
I also have a few beautiful bookmarks. one of them was given to me after my father travelled to Ireland but since his death I haven't been able to bring myself to use it. The day I do is the day I start to heal.

SzélsőFa said...

I use postcards and/or photos and/or serviettes and I have to admit we have a few bookmarks at home - they are hiding within books...
Bookstores in Hungary usually have free bookmarks with the shop's opening hours and telephone numbers on them.
My MIL brought us some original papyrus bookmarks from her journey to Egypt. Those are quite nice, but they are again, hiding somewhere...

I never, ever dog-ear a book.

Bernita said...

Ric, perhaps I didn't make it clear that I think bookmarks as effective advertising is passe, not bookmarks themselves.

Shades of "Stalky & Co," Asa! And why, for some books, I have a "reading copy" and an extra.

Postcards make charming bookmarks, Shauna.

I sense another orderly mind, Suzanne.
When an item is connected with a painful event, it may take a long time.

Books have always been used as a safe depository for odd and interesting things, Szelsofa.
When one finds a feather or a flower in an old book, one wonders about the story behind its placementthere.
Was it really used to mark the reader's place, or for safe keeping of a memory.

SzélsőFa said...

Oh I know that oh-so-well, Bernita. Many of our books, especially those we do not use very often contain a nice collection of leaves and/or flowers. They fall out everytime we dust the books. Sometimes we pick those up, sometime just let them go away with the dust.
Like some old memories...

Bernita said...

You've captured it well, Szelsofa.

December/Stacia said...

Ugh! I never dog-ear. (Well, okay. I dog-ear cookbooks, to make it easy to find recipes I'm interested in, but I don't think that counts.)

I think bookmarks are a waste of money too, and if memory serves RT has specifically banned them from the convention this year because they're sick of picking them up off the floor.

Bernita said...

"specifically banned them from the convention this year because they're sick of picking them up off the floor."
That doesn't suprise me, December.

Demon Hunter said...

I actually have several bookmarks, and I love them, but I still end up dog-earing some pages. Mine aren't fancy. They're usually of Homer Simpson saying something funny. I buy cheap ones...lol. :*)

Billy said...

I dog ear, too, Bernita. But I do love old bookmarks that I discover from years ago, like the ones you present in the post. For modern promo ... think it's mostly a waste. You might sell five books if you throw around 10,000. I don't have the time :)

cyn said...

did you say you DOGEAR the book page??

/faints

haha!

i always bookmark. it doesn't have to be an actual bookmark, but i'll use business card, reciepts, etc.

Sam said...

I turn the page corner down (ignores shocked whispers)or use the book jacket. I did have a bookmark that was fun - a string with some pretty beads top and bottom. It wasn't annoyingly large, and didn't slip out of the book when I read. So I kept it for a long time and used it often - until the string broke.

Bernita said...

Guarantees you a smile when you resume reading, my Demon.

A quaint reflection of a culture that's past, aren't they, Billy.

Cyn, you know I'm e-v-i-l.

Bernita said...

Another criminal like me, Sam!
At one time some books had a thin ribbon attached for bookmark use.
Of course, if one wanted to mark more than one place for reference...

Leigh Russell said...

I use bits of paper, envelopes, anything that comes to hand. I don't like turning pages down (although I do it & feel guilty!) but I rarely use real purpose made bookmarks. This fad of handing out bookmarks as an advertising gimmick is annoying - although I suppose I'll no doubt resort to any means to try and get my book to sell, so I won't say I'll never do it...

Bernita said...

Nice to see you, Leigh.
"I'll no doubt resort to any means to try and get my book to sell"
Necessity makes mothers of us all, I suppose.

Leigh Russell said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Bernita. I have to admit, I sometimes blog instead of getting on with my writing. 2,000 words a day seems to be my maximum. It can be as little as 0.

If you have time to check out my blog you can read about my period of compulsive 2,000 words a day. I'm more relaxed about writing now. It's been a process over the past year.

Bernita said...

Leigh, as soon as I feed the Lion, I'll be back to read your archives.
Really like your cover, btw.

The Anti-Wife said...

I'd use my dog's ears, but I can't get her to keep still for that long.

Bernita said...

Hee, AW!
Been wondering if anyone could'n resist that!

Ello said...

I admit it, I love bookmarks. I know they are old and tired. But I love my pretty ones like the ones you scanned. Sometimes I love them so much, I don't use them and instead use scraps of paper. How odd is that?

Bernita said...

Bookmarks aren't old and tired, Ello. Just using them as an advertising gimmick.