Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reinventing the Bookmark

One unusual step I took with promotion for After Midnight was to hire a student artist in high school to create the artwork for my bookmarks (click on the image to see a larger version.) It was a great time-saver for me and I'm quite pleased with the results, and I think going through the commission process gives young artists a chance to experience what it's like to work as a pro and create on demand.

As a reader and a writer I've been casually collecting bookmarks for years. I have every kind of paper bookmark there is, along with cloth, metal, ceramic and glass specimens. Some of my bookmarks double as magnifiers, calculators, book lights, to-do lists and even mini-calendars. I've also designed, printed and even sewn my own, but I've never really found the ultimate/ideal/perfect bookmark.

My latest acquisition is the Booksling, an elastic bungie-type bookmark that also has end slots that hold two pens (handy when you're reading Larissa Ione's newest bestseller, need to make notes for a blog post about it, and your kids keep swiping your pen.) I like the Booksling, although it's a bit awkward to use with paperbacks. While the $4.99 price tag is a bit high, it's made of well constructed, sturdy materials and will probably outlast me.

I don't really know what I'd consider the perfect bookmark. I like the artiness of those bead-and-string book thongs, but they tend to slither out of the pages too easily. Bungie or clip-on type bookmarks stay in place better, but sometimes leave tears in the pages. Bookmarks that perform extra/electronic functions have the gadgetry appeal, but usually require those tiny little watch batteries that I can never seem to replace without consulting NASA. Laminated bookmarks inevitably part at the edges, paper bookmarks get scratched, torn, wrinkled, etc. (I did find some metal bookmarks from that I thought would be indestructible, but discovered they're also prone to scratch and bend.)

For right now I'm sticking to traditional card stock bookmarks, although I'm experimenting with printing them on different types of photopaper. As for the perfect bookmark, I might as well try designing one myself. Cloth is my thing, and in the past I've dabbled in making beaded/quilted bookmarks, so I think I'll start there. I have a vague notion of somehow combining a paperback book cover with a bookmark that might be interesting. If nothing else I'll have fun with it.

What's your favorite type of bookmark? What would you consider the perfect design to mark your reading places? Let us know in comments.


  1. I like to read during my lunchbreak at work, and in an effort to protect my paperbacks from being thrown in my purse or in a big bag with my lunch & other necessities for the day, I make felt bookcovers with an attached bookmark. The felt is from the craft or dollar store, the thread is cross-stitch floss, and the buttons are antiques that I collect from along the way. (I don't know how to do proper links here so you might need to copy & paste the links to see the pics; sorry!)

    I also like to read when blowdrying my hair in the mornings, which needs two hands! So I created a "book thong" out of hemp cord or thin curtain cording & beads.

    Everything was made with supplies I had on hand in my craft room!

    — Bonz

  2. I've always had a thing for bookmarks... but never had much success at actually using them.

    The bookmarks with the tassels get lost or ruined. The cool little gadgets are too heavy for the page and too annoying to constantly move. I'm afraid I'll break or lose the pretty (and pretty spendy) bookmarks.
    Book darts are cool (and a local-to-me creation) but not something I'm likely to use on a regular basis, though they'd probably be handy in a Bible or other book with frequently referenced passages.

    In the end, I resort to paperclips. Generally the vinyl-covered sort, they're gentler on books. And cheap, so it doesn't matter if I leave them in every book I read. Though I admit, I've used "need more bookmarks" as an excuse to buy cute paperclips at office supply stores.

  3. Anonymous1:39 AM

    I was having trouble making heads or tails of that photo on the right - now that I've sorted it out, I'm fairly certain that Booksling thing would make me bonkers. Looks like it would constantly be in the way.

  4. My favourite kind of bookmark is one that has artwork that matches the genre of the book, is small enough to fit entirely inside the book and will stay put no matter what.

    Like you I casually collected bookmarks for many years. The collection got to be rather big when I started participating in an annual bookmark exchange with my online reading group, so I finally gave in and got a large stamp book in which I store the collectible bookmarks and the delicate ones I don't want to damage. I display my favourites on an Umbra photo display stand and keep the ones that aren't collectible in a bookmark caddy. About a quarter of the collection sits inside books.

    I have a laminating machine and laminate some of my bookmarks and also make bookmarks by laminating clippings from brochures and magazines, which makes it possible to use them in my many cookbooks without damaging them.

    When I'm reading a book I intend to review, I like to use large post-its and make notes on them.

  5. Like Bibliophile, I tend to use post-its, mainly because they don't slide anywhere and I can stick them onto my hand when I'm actively reading.

    But they aren't pretty, darn it!

    I LOVE the pretty ones. Even free library ones are often lovely. I remember a library I visited which featured most of the main characters of Camelot, and I picked up (free) bookmarks of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Gawain, and Merlin. Lovely illustrations.

  6. This is a fascinating discussion. I wouldn't have thought people collected bookmarks.

    I tend to use whatever's at hand: Post-Its, business cards, blow-in cards from magazines. A friend of mine came back from Scotland with a blue leather bookmark from "The Schotch Whiskey Heritage Centre" in Edinburgh that I use. It's really pretty.

  7. I forgot to mention that bookbinding is a hobby of mine and in most books I bind I include a ribbon bookmark as part of the binding. When I re-bind cookbooks, I put in as many bookmarks as I can fit along the spine of the book, so I can mark more than one recipe at a time.

  8. It's okay that paper and cardstock bookmarks fall apart after a few uses. I think they're supposed to. After they fall apart/get lost, I just get new ones.

    In other words, most bookmarks are disposable, and that's okay with me.

  9. My favorite bookmark is whatever I can find when I need one! Despite the million bookmarks in this house, it's amazing how often I end up using a postcard, post-it, open envelope, or tissue.

    I have a really nice metal bookmark, but it puts too much strain on paper pages (clips on from the top to mark the page). I hang onto it, but I don't really use it much.

  10. bluebamboo9:09 AM

    My mom always uses a joker from a deck of cards as a bookmark. Free, sturdy enough for a dozen or more books, and easily replaced when necessary.

    I've crocheted and knitted bookmarks in the past, which has its pros and cons -- it can be time-intensive, yet it makes use of bits of yarn or string you aren't sure what else to do with. Plus you can customize the design/colors/etc.

    They're giftable too. A few years back I gave my niece a mini knitted striped scarf as a bookmark (in Gryffindor colors) with whatever was the newest HP book at the time, and she flipped out over both.

  11. Anne V.9:10 AM

    I really like the book thong, but it has to be a waxed thread with heavy beads on the ends to hold it in place properly.

    I make my own out of lampwork glass beads and gemstones. I've even sold a few at craft fairs along with my other jewelry projects.

  12. I'm probably going to get strung up by some people for this...but I dog-ear.

    It's the perfect way to mark a book. I LIKE bookmarks and I have a few pretty ones that I guard with my life (the bratlet likes to nab things), but in a pinch, dog-earring works just fine.

  13. I really like the artwork for the After Midnight bookmark. Very, very well done. Another added bonus for getting a high school student to make artwork for a YA book -- they know the genre better than anyone.

  14. Anonymous1:22 PM

    I am a fan of book thongs with heavier beads. Nothing small or dainty and I make sure the thong is all the way in the crease of the book to prevent slippage. Book thongs with beads on both ends are prefferred. However, my favorite bookmark is one I've now owned longer than any other.

    The day after my horse Duke died, I was flying back home early from New Jersey to be with my husband (I had been on vacation when it happened.) I stopped in one of the airport book stores to relax and picked up a magazine to read. As I went up to the checkout, there were bookmarks. I glanced over at the rack and saw a bookmark with a sorrel colored horse with a star of white on his face running against a darker green background. The bookmark also has green string attached with green and crystal beads. The horse is eerily similar to my boy and green is my favorite color. I took the bookmark off the rack and started crying (which panicked the later at the register). I paid for everything and (still crying) left the store. I did explain what had happened to the cashier so she wouldn't think I was a complete loon! Every other bookmark I have ever owned disappears within a few months. I have now had my Duke-mark for 1 year, 5 months and 14 days.


  15. Lynn,

    Enjoyed this discussion and your post! Like previous commenters, I often use whatever I can grab for bookmarks: post-its, leftover bits of envelopes, paper clips, printed bookmarks, etc. But what I'm really enjoying now are corner bookmarks. They slip over the corner of the page. They stay put and are a little different than typical bookmarks.

    Here's a pix:

    Tiffany James

  16. My favorite bookmark is one I received during some health promotion at the company I work for. It is a thin, lightweight plastic, that is very flexible. Also the plastic has texture to it so that it doesn't slide from between the pages.

    I love it and use it regularly. Otherwise I use one of my many laminated bookmarks.

  17. I've gone through countless bookmarks over the years. The one that's held up the longest is a wide ribbon bookmark my husband and I gave away as wedding favors. It's printed with a poem, our names, and our wedding date. And we're stuck with a big stack of them because we couldn't order a smaller batch. lol

  18. I love all kinds of bookmarks! I've collected them for many years, and since I've been a bookseller for a lot of my adult life, I have at least several hundred of all different kinds!

  19. Have you tried making a book snake? Our preservation department is holding a book snake party next week where everyone can stop by and make one. I can't make it, but it sounded like fun. It would be easy to do quilting and add beads to one.

    Here's what they look like and how to make one:

  20. I use the BookMate and love it. It's a bit expensive, but it keeps the book open for reading and can fold up with a built-in bookmark for carrying in your purse.

  21. While I have lots of the freebie kind that get handed out for promotion, and I do use those, I'm just as likely to use a receipt, or stray piece of paper.

    I also have a few nicer ones that I have received as gifts. My favorite is one a friend made for me several years ago. It is cross-stitched on the bendable plastic craft stuff (you can tell how crafty I am) and works great. Durable, thin, doesn't fall out and works for both hardback and paperback books.

  22. From time to time I run across old 1st eds with the receipt still in them. Never been opened, still have that great new-book smell. OTOH, I think it was John D. Rockefeller who would use whatever scrap of paper he had on him at the time. Usually large-denomination bills.Wouldn't mind a few of those, either.