Book Love

Dog-earing Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Oh, the dog-ear. Nothing can splinter the relationship between two book lovers quite like folding down the corner of a page. While some don’t bat an eye at it, others might take the crease as a reason to cease the friendship.

An occasional dog-earer, I’ve revealed my habit (compulsion?) to some co-workers and have been met with—I kid you not—gasps. My rules: I don’t dog-ear library books, coffee table books, art books, cookbooks, nearly all hardcovers, or anything glossy. Paperbacks though…get ready, because I’m about to go origami on those pages.

I was curious how others felt, so naturally, I took it to Twitter. Turns out the masses are just as conflicted as I am:

With over a hundred votes, the winner was that it’s no biggie, but close behind is the polar opposite—sociopathic behavior! Meanwhile, the rest of you are just shrugging in the middle, wondering what all the fuss is about.

I felt like my confusion was vindicated, but where was the passion? The drama? The civilized book-people arguments filled with ten-dollar words? Luckily, I work in publishing—a place swimming with fervent book fiends. I cautiously sent out an email, waiting for a resounding “NEVER IN MY LIFE” type of response.

The results? They are just as split as my amateur Twitter poll.

The Nays

“Only heathens would dog-ear. The only greater crime is breaking the spine.” —Sally Kim, Associate Director, Children’s Marketing

“Don’t EVER dog-ear a book. In the past, I’ve always used whatever receipt or scrap was around. Now I proudly use an Eleanor Roosevelt bookmark. She keeps me on track…and I love knowing she’s always there when I crack open my current book.” —Lisa Bach, Director of Independent Special Sales

“I don’t. I can never find a bookmark, so I cut up trite greeting cards into bookmark-strips as soon as I receive them. I like to think that I am punishing the sender for their bad taste by forcing their card to do MY bidding.” —Michael Morris, Design Director

“I am firmly anti dog-ear! I have a basket of bookmarks at home so there’s always one ready, and in pinch will use a post-it, tissue, gum wrapper, or MUNI transfer before I’d dog-ear a book. Once the ear has been dogged, you can never go back.” —Lara Starr, Senior Publicist, Children’s

“Never, ever! I also don’t write in books, add bookplates, or use metal bookmarks. I like to think of the book having a life after me, in the most pristine condition possible.” —Viniita Moran, Web Manager

Chronicle Books bookmark

The Sometimes

“Depends on the book. Fiction: A-ok to dog-ear. I’m currently dog-earing a lot of Ramona paperbacks as I read with my son. Coffee table art books: no way! Books are made to be loved, used, enjoyed—so I say people should do whatever they want.” —Christina Amini, Publishing Director

“I think it’s fine if it’s your book, but I get PISSED when someone borrows a book from me and dog-ears it when it hasn’t been marked yet.” —Alexandra Brown, Marketing Manager

“If the book is used: it adds to its character, and dog-earring is fair game. If the book is new: NEVER! Especially if it is hardcover. Extra especially if it’s a hardcover, first printing. Extra extra especially if it is a debut author, a hardcover, and a first printing. As my antiquarian bookseller mother always tells me: “Take care of your books—you never know what they will be worth one day!” —Hannah Moushabeck, Associate Marketing Manager

The Yeas

“I dog-ear pages in my book club books that I want to go back to during our discussions. I don’t like writing in my books, so that’s how I keep track of the bits I like. All of this is silly because my favorite used books have other people’s notes in them—it gives the book even more context and history! I should give up dog-earring and start scrawling.” —Genny McAuley, National Accounts Manager

“I almost always dog-ear books. I think the stigma holds water when it comes to dog-earing a book that doesn’t belong to you; it’s important to respect others’ standards of care. I also won’t dog-ear a book that holds historical importance or is more of an art object, like a hand-printed edition of 100 or something like that, but that is obviously an extreme. But for a book that is meant to be learned from, which is basically every other book, why not dog-ear? Why not take notes? I have a bad memory and I know it, so dog-ears and annotations help that book live up to its fullest potential in expanding my knowledge. I don’t get nearly as much out of my book if I’m not revisiting and reconsidering my initial impressions. Stoking inspiration and aiding in learning should be the ultimate point, not how pristine and intact you can keep your book, which is made of paper and will disintegrate someday anyways. Plus, it adds character and charm that begin telling their own stories, right along with the grass stains and curling edges.” —Lisa Ferkel, Junior Designer

“Ah, you’ve touched on a domestic nerve: it drives my husband nuts that I dog-ear books. That said, I’d never do any such thing on a nice hardcover. Only paperbacks. And I lament how hard it can be to find a beautifully crafted bookmark. That + a book = the perfect gift!” —Christine Carswell, Publisher

“Anne Fadiman says there are two kinds of book lovers: courtly and carnal. Courtly book lovers keep their books pristine. Carnal book lovers dog-ear, bend covers over backwards, spill stuff on their books, drop them in the bath, etc. I am firmly in the latter camp.” —Bridget Watson Payne, Senior Editor

– – –

The conflict lives on, but my thirst for drama has been satisfied.

So, you knew it was coming—do you dog-ear? Make your case in the comments! Also, find out what your bookmark choice says about you.

iPhone bookmark

Photography by Irene Kim Shepherd

Jenna Homen

Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found cooking, camping, or in a museum. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
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7 Comments

  • Christina Wilsdon March 15, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Ix-nay on dog-earing library books, hardcover books, coffee-table books, art books, other people’s books, the Book of Kells, and the like.

    But have at it when it comes to paperbacks. I love buying an old paperback novel for 50 cents off the local library’s donation shelf, one that was made with paper that has a high-enough rag content that the pages become soft over time. They actually seem to appreciate being dog-eared.

    Yeah, I try to grab the random bits of paper to use as bookmarks, and sometimes even have post-its handy (sadly, all pretty bookmarks seem to be in perpetual hibernation somewhere unbeknowns to me), but sometimes even ephemeral bookmarks seem to go the way of all the pens and scissors in the house. I refuse to use an entire tablecloth or the sofa as a bookmark.

    Reply

  • Jane Immel April 2, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    I wish I thought it O.K. to dog ear some books so I could go back to interesting parts, but only would do it if it’s a really old paperback.
    I use scent strips from magazines for book marks..holds your place while leaving a nice smell the next time you pen the book!

    Reply

  • Jane Immel April 2, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    ( should be ” open the book”) sorry!

    Reply

  • Jennifer April 3, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I only dog-ear paperbacks, usually the mass market ones.

    My bookmark of choice was made from fabric by a co-worker’s grandmother. Before I received it, I would grab anything I could find – scrap paper, gum wrapper, napkin, sheet of TP, etc.

    Reply

  • Jen Greenlees April 4, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I am of the opinion that is okay and perfectly fine if you want to dog-ear YOUR OWN books, but please, do not dog ear library books or books on loan from friends. But if you paid for your book so that you could enjoy it, and dog-earing is something that you enjoy, I’m all for it. (I just will not buy it if you ever lose your love for your dog-eared book and sell it to a used bookstore.)

    I like my books kept as pristine as possible. I’m hoping to live another 50 years or so, and I figure my pristine books will survive longer being read and reread – and reread. I’m sure they’ll eventually become a bit tattered from all of the rereading I do, but it won’t be because I didn’t try to keep to keep them “like new” for as long as possible.

    Reply

    • Jen Greenlees April 4, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Oops, forgot… My bookmark of choice is a store-bought one with tassel: It depicts the characters from the Disney-Pixar film Inside Out and says, “Every day is full of emotions.” (I took the beads off of the tassel, as the tassel is actually what I use as my bookmark, while the “bookmark” hangs out in either the latter half – if I’m in the beginning – or the first half – if I’m toward the end – of the book.)

      But sometimes I’ll lose track of this bookmark, or it will have fallen out of my book on my way to another room, and then I’ll use whatever comes easiest to hand to mark my place (cell phone? another book? a pen? anything/something else? all have stood in for my favored bookmark at some point or another, within my home, at least).

      Reply

  • Kristen Steele April 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I’m in the “no dog-ear” camp. I like the look of a clean book and I’m rarely the only person to read the books that I buy. I share them with friends and relatives so I want to pass something neat and tidy on to them!

    Reply

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