Everyone has at one time or other found themselves flipping through a book trying to find the page where they left off. This is irritating, time consuming and can spoil the story by revealing important parts of the future plot. To save oneself from this petty annoyance most find it prudent to employ the services of that most useful device; the bookmark.
A bookmark can have any shape, as long as it is flat. It's true that other bulkier objects are used as bookmarks, eg, pens, remote controls or CD-cases, and for brief periods this is fine but if the book is picked up these will fall out. Therefore these stopgap measures are generally not considered to be proper bookmarks. Nor is the habit of folding a corner of the appropriate page into a 'dog-ear'. Albeit, this is a way to find that page again but it isn't strictly a bookmark in its own right. Besides, this habit isn't encouraged by book-lovers as it is harmful to the book. This also applies to long-term usage of bulky bookmarks.
How to Use a Bookmark
A bookmark is placed on the page that one wants to save, fairly near the spine, with approximately a third (but no more that a couple of inches) of the bookmark sticking out over the top of the page. When the book is then closed the bookmark will stay in place. Later, when you wish to resume reading, it is simply a matter of opening the book where the bookmark is to find your page. If the bookmark is placed a long way from the spine there is a risk that the bookmark will fall out if the book is moved.
Bookmarks can be divided into three main families, home-made bookmarks, manufactured bookmarks and digital bookmarks.
The Common Bookmark
This type of bookmark is found in all homes with book-readers and is a flat object forced into service as a bookmark. It might be a receipt or a sliver of paper hurriedly torn from a magazine when the reader doesn't have the time to find a proper bookmark.
The Ribbon Bookmark
This is probably one of the oldest forms of bookmark. It is simply a ribbon, usually at least a centimetre in width. Sometimes it is glued to the inside of the book's spine1. This has the extra advantage of making the bookmark almost impossible to lose.
The ribbon bookmark is popular in old leather tomes, it gives the volume in question a more antique look and feel.
The Informative Bookmark
The informative bookmark serves a double purpose. A book (especially a non-fiction book) may have many bookmarks. To differentiate between these they have a few scribbled words on the top half that reveal what is on that particular page. The bookmark often consists of a slip of paper torn from a notepad and is therefore often wedge-shaped with the comment written on the wider end.
The risk of having many bookmarks in one book is that as you flip it open at one bookmark another might fall out. They can be made more secure by lengthening the bookmark and leaving a longer part inside the book. No bookmark will fall out at all if you exercises a bit of caution but many find it more convenient to use post-it notes and put the bit with glue between the pages.
Strictly speaking the colour-coded dividers often found in larger text-books, encyclopedias and dictionaries should be in this section. But even though these help find pages they are not placed there by the user and cannot be said to be proper bookmarks.
The Decorative Bookmark
The decorative bookmark is often seen on display and for sale next to the counters of libraries and book-shops. Promotional bookmarks with pictures from the latest book/film/pop-star are always popular with fans. Even compared to the common bookmark it is probably the most widespread of all bookmarks.
As implied by the name the decorative bookmark is made to look nice. The classic design is a piece of thin card approximately 4x10 cm with pictures of flowers or any other decorative pattern on both sides. Though thin card is the classic material it can also be made out of other materials, eg, leather, plastic or thin metal. The bookmark also frequently sports a tassel at one end.
Another version is more brightly coloured, made out of cheaper (and also thinner) paper and cut into exotic shapes. The shape depends on the picture on the bookmark, sometimes it is cut exactly round the edge of the design but if this eg, is a horse it means the legs might tear off easily so the bookmarks are usually cut into 'blob' shapes. One of the most popular designs are angels, and these are often extra flashy with glitter on their wings.
It used to be popular among children to collect these flashy bookmarks and they would often be kept in albums and, by the more industrious youngsters, arranged into categories.
There is a third type of decorative bookmark that should strictly be in the 'home-made' bookmark section but, as it's without question a decorative bookmark, it must be placed with the manufactured bookmarks. The type in question is made out of thin card or cloth. These are cut into suitable shapes (approximately 4x10 cm) and then decorated. The card might be drawn upon or a perhaps a small photo of a loved one might be attached and some pieces of string added as a tassel at one end. It is essentially a home-made version of the first decorative bookmark described above. It is often made by children and given to a grown-up relative as a Christmas/birthday present.
The Corner Bookmark
The corner bookmark is the only bookmark not used in the manner described at the beginning of the article. It consists of two pieces of paper cut into right-angled triangles (approximately 6cm along the hypotenuse2) and glued (or sewn) together around two sides, leaving the hypotenuse open. Instead of being placed between the pages it is slipped onto the top corner of the page. A corner bookmark can easily be manufactured at home by cutting off a corner from an envelope.
The Paperclip Bookmark
This bookmark has a thin tongue sticking down from the top and is intended to be clipped onto the appropriate page in the same manner as a paper-clip. That is to say the bookmark is slid downwards onto the page with the tongue on one side and the rest of the marker on the other. This must be done gently to avoid tearing; the same applies when removing the bookmark.
These bookmarks are made almost exclusively out of thin metal though they are in some cases manufactured out of really thin wood too.
In this digital age reading material appears in electronic form. These differ greatly in appearance to the other bookmarks but are used for the same purpose, simply to mark a place that the you might want to return to at a later date.
The most widely used digital bookmark is the one used to mark webpages. A function in the Internet browser allows the user to save the addresses to his or her favourite websites. Some programs which offer information also have this feature.
The other type of digital bookmark is becoming increasingly popular as free and legal ebooks can be easily downloaded from the Internet (from the Gutenburg Project for example). These books are in text format and if you read them on the computer, keeping your place can be tricky. To solve this problem many write a bookmark-word where they leave off, then later they make use of the word-processor search-function to search for the bookmark-word. Obviously, you ought to choose a word that is unlikely to feature in the book or the search might have several hits. A word in a different language is often good.