Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bookmark or Dog Ear?

I'm in the midst of preparing lesson plans for next week for my freshman composition class. Okay, actually I'm writing this instead of preparing lesson plans because I'm procrastinating, which is something I do well.

It's the beginning of the semester and I want to start them thinking about thinking, and thinking about seeing, and thinking about what things mean. And I don't know why, but my mind started wandering and I wondered what it says about a person if, when reading a book, they use a book mark versus dog earring the page to mark their place, and although it may sound kind of silly on the surface, I think it gets at a deeper philosophical question about how people view and value books.

Do book-markers have a deeper reverence or respect for books, or even property in general? Or are they just neatniks? Are they organized and uptight about having things just so? Are they squeamish about marring the perfection of art? Do they want to preserve the book in its like-new condition for as long as possible so they'll be able to enjoy it that much longer? Do book-markers also leave the dust jacket on the book as they read it and then organize their books in alphabetical order on perfectly dusted shelves? Are book-markers more considerate? Are they honoring and valuing books more by using book marks?

Are dog-earrers rebels who couldn't care less about the value of the book itself and so have no problem with vandalizing its pages? By folding the corners are they torturing the pages of books the way Sid tortures toys? Do they toss dust jackets carelessly aside and then shelve their books willy-nilly in no reasonable order? Maybe even leaving them in piles or boxes? (gasp!) Or by dog-earring are they getting down and dirty and showing their love for reading. Are books meant to be used and loved or revered and put on a pedestal?

I'll confess, I'm a dog-earrer. I do try not to dog-ear library books because they don't belong to me, and I do that not out of respect for the book itself but out of respect for the fact that I don't own it. My own books, though, I dog-ear like there's no tomorrow. Why?  Because bookmarks fall out. And because a dog-ear is a built-in bookmark. And because it's no big deal. I think, like a cozy blanket or your favorite jammies, books are meant to be loved and used and appreciated. Just like stuffed animals are meant to be snuggled and squeezed and loved, not collected on a shelf. To me, a book with lots of dog-ears and a ratty binding, and maybe fingerprints inside shows that it's adored, well-read, and loved. I write in my books, make notes, highlight my favorite stuff. I read them over and over. I don't shelve alphabetically, I toss aside dust covers, and I have piles of books everywhere. In my house, books are part of the family, not a collection that shouldn't be touched.

So I'm taking a poll. Where do you stand on the book mark vs dog-ear issue? You see over there on the right? There's a little poll. Click your preference. And maybe leave me a comment...


Kate said...

I'm a bookmarker by nature. The only time I dog-ear is some of my older used books that have already been dog-earred. I do keep most of my books in pristine condition... One of the things I love about my Kindle is that I can make notes without marring the book. I cringe when I see people cracking book spines and bending them in half to read.

Sarah said...

I'm a bookmarker, though I'm the furthest thing possible from a neat-nick. My books aren't organized well and they tend to pile up on the floor and tables. I don't know why I bookmark; it just feels right.

Along that line of thought, I really love buying used books and finding some sort of interesting bookmark inside. It makes me feel connected to the previous reader.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm a bookmarker. I love all the different bookmarks you can get - my students have bought a few really neat ones over the years. :)

At school all of my 2000+ books are neatly organized into labelled baskets - until the students put them back in the wrong spot at least. At home, I'm more of a piler :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Bookmarks! I usually buy hardbacks, so I like to keep them in as pristine a condition as possible.

KarenG said...

Always bookmarks! Or if the book has a dustcover, I'll use the flap. I will never turn down the page of a book, just can't make myself do it.

Mara Nash said...

Wow. I'm so in the minority here.

Sarah said...

Hey Mara! Came back to let you know that I've chosen you for the Stylish Blogger Award. Because you're stylish.

Details here:

Donna Hole said...

You so caught me out (lol). Yes, my books are stacked where ever I place them - floor, headboard, coffee tables, table, desk. I used to organize the titles on a book shelf, but I've moved so often over the last few years the books are lucky to make it out of the packing box.

But, I've always been the dog ear type. I do reverence books; but I take them everywhere and they tend to get more damage from the environment than the turned down corner.

I've tried using bookmarks - I've had some lovely ones - but I always end up losing them. I prefer using the slim, neat markers, but they get in the way of reading.

I am constantly aware of where the bookmark is. Stuck at the end of the novel while I'm just starting it begs me to skip ahead. As I read into the novel, it makes an awkward bump the requires constant smoothing of the pages so I don't lose my place.

I dogear the tops of pages so I can quickly find my place when I have to put the book down (dang it); but I dog-ear the bottoms so I can find my favorite passages.

But I love to collect book markers; especially if they belong to a specific book.


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