I left off touching on digital bookmarks. I read books. Actual, physical books. Not the digital ones—the old technology. I am tempted by e-readers, though, starry-eyed with notion that they’ll get me reading more—because they are novel, and somehow, someway. This is misguided bunkum, I’m aware, so I’m reluctant to adopt, but: Book-reading is a habit I’m still trying to further ingrain. (Aren’t we all?) And I do need strategies for this century. I would so rather grab my phone, for example, given the vacuumed choice, than a book1. It’s an unfair contest. This proclivity results partially because I can use my phone with one hand, whereas a book necessitates two.2 I’m all-in reading a book. Phones, because of their form factor (small!), feign as if they lend to the art of multitasking, though I don’t manage to do anything besides be completely absorbed by my phone, while I’m on my phone, all that well. I also tend to think, in terms of commitment, of books as being fussy about time and focus, like I can’t casually flip open a book for two minutes and get anything out of it. The obverse of this is that phones are immediately gratifying, and they take no effort to operate. I can glance at my phone and feel strong emotion.
Anyway: Consequently, I have to skew the odds to get myself to read. The phone is one distraction. There are others, and there’s not all that much I’ve found can be done to sway the situation besides impose temporal and spatial constraints. My strats:
- Borrow from a library (rather than own books). Due dates are strong motivators. (N.B., This is a temporal constraint.) (Also note my deliberate use “a book” and “my phone”—possessive indicators—above.)
- Place books in sight, in the way, within reach. (N.B., This is a spatial [and visual] constraint.)
That’s basically it.3 And it’s chiefly the due date that gets me reading when I slack. However, when I do open a book, what took me a couple of years to realize is: I often forget where I left off, especially if it was in the middle of a chapter, and this causes your writer momentary panic and Extreme Visceral Consternation to have to regain his bearings. Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweaty palms—the works.4 The thought of rereading passages—and conjuring déjà vu—is enough to dissuade me (subconsciously) from opening a book and, less obviously, from reading short of a chapter at once (i.e., casually reading in spurts). So, this had (past tense now) been a constant obstacle that precluded me from reading: fear of losing my place. And this phenomenon occurred despite using a bookmark to denote where I’d left off.
I suppose now is the time to divulge my bookmarking history and habits:
My bookmarks are scraps of paper. I enjoyed doing origami as a kid, and a relic of that is that I still find myself folding bits of paper, more often than the average person, probably, so anyway: I was wont to fold paper into rectangles, which I stuck out from the tops of books. All store-bought and school-provided bookmarks I had when I was younger functioned this way—they jutted out and sometimes had a ribbon or tassel on the end. The reason for the bookmark protruding is so that the reader can readily gauge (or flaunt) their progress, I guess. I don’t know—I never thought about why I placed my bookmarks that way (I only mimicked what I saw others doing), and after giving it a moment’s thought, I realized this mannerism is rather nonsensical. So I reassessed the notion of bookmarking, and came up with a more precise, protrusionless method of doing it.
I want to tell, immediately, by looking at the position of my bookmark
- which page (left or right), and
- which line
I left off on. This is able to relay that:
Placing the tape in a corner affords four horizontal orientations for the bookmark. This is my key for the tape’s positioning, in relationship to the spine:
- Inside: right page
- Outside: left page
- Facing up: above line
- Facing down: below line
I now open books knowing exactly where I left off, and I am more apt to read for a minute or two (in short sessions, in spurts).
ProTip: I use a Teflon paper folder to get crisp creases.
I like Pro-Gaff tape. It’s durable, and the neon orange is grossly lurid, which makes the bookmark’s orientation easy to distinguish (plus the bookmark itself difficult to misplace).
1Or engage in anything else remotely productive, for that matter. The phone trumps all in a bubble.
2I will concede that it’s sometimes possible to hold a book with one hand, but often I need two. Page turns always require a second hand.
3Good lightning, a comfortable chair, and quiet help, of course, but none of those drive causality. I am as likely to sit in a cozy position and doze off.
4EVC is a verified medical condition. Look it up.