I used to treat bookstore bookmarks like glorified receipts. Ironically, I do sometimes use receipts as bookmarks. I also use coupons, tickets, and most recently an Air France in-flight menu, with a pretty red design, that just, you know, works (3 books and counting). But now, I appreciate branded bookstore bookmarks for what they are: relics of a bookstore pilgrimage. Or to be less idolatrous, souvenirs of a bookstore vacation. Each one contains some visual essence of the place it represents. Like these: Modern Times’ bookmark is red-fringed, bold-themed, and has a bulging brain-book-heart logo, apropos of its lefty political leanings. Half Price’s is long, bright, and utilitarian, apropos of its quantity-over-quality business model (but it must be working, ’cause I already have six or seven of these lying around). Dog Eared’s is an unorthodox wide rectangle with a frenetic dog graphic, which suits the overall aesthetic of the place, with its block-letter wood-panel shelf signs and its window full of artistic renderings of the interesting recently deceased.
My favorite in my collection, so far, is the Christopher’s Books bookmark, which in a lovely font invites you to “explore the ancient art of page turning” and, old encyclopedia-style, shows you three fig.s with accompanying illustrations.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not an artist– my best medium is probably collage, and I can throw together some pretty spiffy collages, though saying you’re good at collage is kind of like saying you’re good at alphabetizing… who cares? (I am also good at alphabetizing.)– but I appreciate me some good bookmark design. And now, I’ve come to expect a branded bookmark when I make a purchase at an independent bookstore.
Which is why I was a little disappointed when I made some impulse buys at the Alexander Book Co. in downtown SF yesterday. When I got home, I dug around my bag with anticipation but all I found were the two books I bought (Sense and Sensibility and Jane Eyre, btw) and two wispy receipts. It was like that feeling when you get a gift bag and you pull out the contents but you expected more, so you rummage through every last bunch of tissue paper just in case (surreptitiously, if the person who gave you the bag in question is present). Alexander Book Co. did try to make up for their lack of branded bookmark by having a branded plastic bag, which says “EAT SLEEP READ” in big purple letters and thanks you for shopping independent. But it’s a poor substitute. Plastic bags will never be cute. And you can’t use them in your books.