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The Bookmark


Not many people read a book from start to finish in one sitting, so how do you find your way back to where you left your reading when you had to go off to do whatever?

The erudite reader remembers the page and the word where they had stopped. Other people have to find another way that complies with parental discipline for the care of books, and with the historic and financial value of the book. No one will fold down the corner of an 18th century edition of Shakespeare’s plays or whatever. Though grandchildren are less pernickety, since they are more interested in the story, and where it is leading, than they are about the value of the book the story happens to be in. You can use a dust jacket, unfolded from the cover and inserted into the page, but it is usually of such a size that it causes the pages to be bent.

No, it is the bookmark that well satisfies my needs for page identification. A bookmark is discrete, accurate, and additionally something to fiddle with absentmindedly while you are reading. A bookmark can be a scrap of paper torn from a newspaper, or a piece of carefully folded or even cut plain paper, but it is more likely to be a piece of printed card with the publisher’s name printed on it and including instructions on how to buy another copy of the book.

The strange thing is that as I look along my shelf of books I see the top of a bookmark in almost all of them, and this is the worrying part, the bookmark is usually about a tenth of the way through the book. For most of them anyway. I am not sure what that says, probably more about me and how I read books.

Mostly my bookmarks have been bought from stately homes, or museums, or festivals and posh gardens that I have visited, all of which give the bookmark added importance and added literary weight. The bookmark from the local plumber, or pharmacy, or more likely estate agent, I hate, and rarely ever use. A special bookmark is an old family photo which keeps the place well and freely gives out memories. However, when the bookmark starts to become more interesting than the book, it is time to move on and choose another book from the shelf.

Of course it should always be the book itself that is the important thing since it is the book that I have chosen that says everything about me, or perhaps it might just be the bookmark from the elite bookshop where I bought the book, that shows where I am coming from.

The thought of an electronic machine telling me where I stopped, how quickly I was reading, how many pages are left to go, and how long it will take to read is anathema to me. How can an eBook ever be a book?

Literary snob, that’s me.

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