I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people recently about how they bookmark stuff. It seems to be on a lot of peoples’ minds as more and more of our reading moves onto screens. So I thought I’d share a few things, and ask for some feedback.
Firstly, here’s what I do:
- I dog-ear a lot. I dog-ear every page that has something interesting on it (which is not always obvious when I return to it), and I dog-ear my last position in the book. Top corner. Sometimes I try to make the dog-ear point to the exact place in the text I’m referring to, but this doesn’t really work.
- I was using bkkeepr for a while, and I’m really pleased to see that lots of people still are (especially this, which I’ve mentioned before). But it’s a bit shonky (sorry) and really needs more love than I can give it right now to make it a lot more efficient.
- I photograph pages and add them to Flickr. I really like this, actually, but it’s only suitable for some quotes. Most stuff doesn’t make it there, but it’s a surprisingly frictionless process from iPhone to the web.
- I keep what I now realise is a commonplace book. A constant stream of notebooks—except most of my own notes go straight onto a keyboard these days (and thence to an SVN repository, but that’s a different article), so the books are where everyone else’s notes go: notes on talks, and pages copied out of books. A lot of these. This is how I think.
- There are quite a lot of post-it notes around my house, too. “Quite” might be understating it.
Alex, ingeniously, has two types of dog-ear: one in the top corner for location (stack pointer) and one in the bottom corner for interesting books (bookmarks)—I think that’s right.
Russell currently sends quotes to Flickr and his blog from Instapaper, using the latter’s nifty send-quote-to-Tumblr feature. This is a bit like my Flickr technique, and while I want to look at how people interact with physical books, this quoting behaviour is still important.
Other people use marginalia much more extensively. Underlining too. Ed Champion recently presented a nice cross-section. If there isn’t a Tumblr dedicated to found marginalia already, there really needs to be.
Someone I know always writes their name in the front of each of their books. I’d like to do this but I haven’t so far and bibliomania would mean I’d have to go back and do all of them and I simply do not have enough arms. My father always tucks newspaper reviews into his books—such reviews being the primary way he comes to books in the first place. Another relative writes their own short reviews on the frontispiece immediately they finish a book (this moment, immediately after turning the last page, is so charged with meaning I’m going to have to go on and on about it another time).
Working on a recent project, we came up with an inevitably incomplete typology of bookmarks, not including the progress mark, which goes something like this:
- Pointer: a bookmark with no additional content. Underlining. A bare quote.
- Note: a bookmark with some additional content. Marginalia. Adding something to the text, alongside it.
- Reference: a bookmark with a link to some other content. Adding something to the text, pointing elsewhere.
This seems simple, but it’s quite key, with regard to inline bookmarking. Then there’s the more general stuff associated with the whole text, or groups of texts. But lets start with this.
What do you do? What are your bookmarking strategies and techniques? What do your books look like when you’re done, and how do you collect this information (if you do)?