How to Save Your Spot When Reading Online Fiction


I've mentioned before the problem with using bookmarks when reading blog fiction. The term "bookmark" is the terminology we use to refer to the concept of "saving" a webpage for later. I believe the Netscape coined the term for their original web browser - and it is something I may never forgive them for doing.

Even though we use the same word to describe saving our spots in books and on the internet, we use those "bookmarks" very differently. When I use a bookmark in the physical world, I am saving my place only until I get back. When I return to the book, I remove my bookmark, read and continue reading from where I was. The old "bookmarked" spot no longer exists. In cyberspace when we "bookmark" something we are usually saving it either permanently or at least "until further notice". We use our bookmark to jump back to a spot, but we do not remove the bookmark.

So why is this a problem? It's a problem because now I don't have the vocabulary to describe a "real" cyber bookmark. That is, a temporary bookmark that is erased when I open it. Well, for now I'm just going to refer to it as "temporary bookmarks". Now that my mini rant is done I come to the point of my article. I have found 2 bookmarking services that work like temporary bookmarks instead of permanent bookmarks.

The first service is a firefox add-on called "taboo". The idea behind "taboo" is that not only does it bookmark a page, but it saves any text you've entered into the page as well as how far down the screen your scrollbar is. It also takes a visual snapshot so that when you look at all of your "taboos" you see a nice preview of the page you saved. The service add 2 buttons to your browser. One is a button that will bookmark or "taboo" your spot. If you click it on a webpage that already has a saved taboo a little box pops up that allows to either change the name or description of the taboo and to move the taboo to the current spot on the webpage or you can just remove it. This makes removing a taboo very simple. Load a page, click taboo, click "remove". All of this without using any menu options.

The second button, as you may have guessed shows you all of your "taboos". If you click the button it will open up a firefox tab that shows all the thumbnails of the taboos you've saved. It lists them in the order that they were saved so you can see your latest bookmark -err... taboo- of each website you've visited if you have more than one taboo. Another quicker option is a little arrow next to the "show taboo" button will show a little popup of your latest taboos so you can quickly go back to a page you were reading.

Another bookmarking option I found was called dogear. This service is a little harder to describe. It places less emphasis on the time you saved a page than taboo does. However, the service works with all web browsers because all the information is saved on their webserver.

Here's how it works, when you want to start using it, you click a bookmark called "dogearit". What that does is create a frame at the top of your browser and the rest of the webpage in a frame below it. Then, when you want to "dog-ear" a page, you highlight the text you want to come back to and then left click it. That create's your dog ear. If you highlight other text on the page and then left-click it, it will move the dogear to that text.

To retrieve your dogears you have another bookmark. That takes you to a webpage(assuming you're logged in) that lists all of your "dog-eared" web pages. Then you can click them like any other hyperlink and you'll goto that webpage, scroll to where you left it, and the dogear frame will be at the top of the page.

So, which of these services works best? Hands down "taboo" is a lot better. I use it to read the archives of blog fiction and it works out great. The dogearit service is too slow. When the frame is on the page, it seems to almost quintuple my page load times. Unlike taboo, it is not as easy to remove a dogear you no longer want. Plus it seems I'm always getting logged out of the service so I waste time trying to log back in.

There are a couple things that dogear does better than taboo. First of all, any browser can use it. So if you use Internet Explorer, Safari, or Chrome dogear is pretty much your only option. The second thing is how the services handles saving your spot in a page. Taboo only remembers how far down the page you scrolled. That means if the page changes by adding content to the top, your scrollbar will not be in the same place. Dogear remembers by keeping track of the text you highlighted. Dogear will take you to that portion of the page regardless of where it is. So, if dogear ever solves the speed issue, it might become as good, if not better, than the taboo firefox add-on. Until the speed issue is resolved, however, I would recommend using firefox and taboo if you're looking to use temporary in-page bookmarks.

While taboo and dogearit solves a couple of the problems with reading online fiction it does not resolve them all. For instance, if you're not reading in a chronological order (which is definately a possiblity with blog or any online fiction) you can't keep track of what you have and haven't read. It does however, solve 2 big problems. It allows you to do an in-page save - this is especially helpful if you're reading multiple blog posts on a single archive page(i.e. all August posts). Also you can remove a temporary bookmark easily so you don't have 3 dozen bookmarks on the same webpage.


Tom Evans said...


A brief warning to your readers, and my fellow bloggers:

Watch your domain name!

My has been stolen by some *!^% sitting in India with a smug self-satisfied grin. I don't know how much he expects me to pay for it but it's pretty outrageous that it should have been allowed. Plainly I failed to check the relevant email account for a month or so and missed some kind of reminder.

Anyway, for anyone looking for it, it's now at the far less impressive (no offence!) Sadly google now links to the broken page and I don't know how to fix that, if it's even possible!

DustinM said...

I'm sorry to hear about your domain name. I noticed it earlier today. I have mentioned on several occasions the disdain I have for those scum sucking domain squatters. I'll try to update my links so that his site doesn't get any SEO love.

dan said...


Good post and very interesting. Have you heard of my new coinage, to call reading online "screening" instead of reading? Your POV?

Tufts 1971

my full take is here

Are you 'reading' this article or 'screening' it online?

By Dan Bloom

If you are reading this comentary in the printed version of this
newspaper, you are "reading" it
in print. But if you are reading it online, on this newspaper's
website, would you be "reading" it or "screening" it?

There's a message here for those readers reading this online. Print
readers might also find this idea worth discussing as well.

To readers online I want to say: What you are doing now is not
reading, but "screening." Yes, you are at this very moment screening
the textprinted digitally on this computer screen. You are not reading
text on a paper surface; you are "screening" this article through the
lens of the computer screen in front of you. Perhaps a new word is
born -- screening!

When a top computer industry writer at the New York Times, John
Markoff, was told
about this new term, he told me in a one-word email note:"Hmmmmmmm." I
think he didn't quite cotton to the new terminology I am proposing.
But at least he was listening. He didn't tell me to get lost, although
maybe that is what he meant.

Screening? Can anyone just coin a new word and make it stick? No, but
new words are coined everyday, and some stick and some don't. Time
will tell whether or not "screening" (to mean "reading information on
a computer screen, as distinct from reading a print newspaper or
magazine or book") will stay with us or not. For now, the word has
been accepted and listed by the editors at


Screening has defined there as: "To read text on a computer screen,
cellphonescreen, Kindle screen or PDA screen or BlackBerry screen;
replaces the term "reading" which now only refers to reading print
text on paper."

Example: "I hate reading print newspapers now. I do all my screening online."

The word is so new that most have never heard of it. And many readers,
I am sure, online and reading this newspaper's print edition, will not
agree with the coinage.

James Fallows, an editor for the Atlantic Monthly now living in
Beijing, told me the word was interesting but that he was "not likely
to be an early
adopter of "screening" for two reasons.

"There is already and established and different meaning of "screening" that
could easily be confused here," Fallows said in an email. "The
meaning I have in mind is similar to
"skimming," "reviewing," "categorizing" etc -- going through material
quickly to assess its importance, as opposed to fully concentrating on and
absorbing it."

Fallows added: "The existing meaning of "reading" has been independent
of the medium on
which the words are displayed. We've used the term to apply to words printed
on paper; subtitles on a movie screen; words flashed on neon signs; etc. In
all the cases, regardless of medium, we use "read" to refer to the act of
taking in written symbols by eye and converting them mentally to
words. So, good luck with this idea. I am not opposed to it, but this
is why I'll
stick with "reading" myself."

Amit Gilboa, an Israeli writer living in Singapore and a frequent
visitor to Taipei, told me: "No, it's still reading. Whether in a
book, a print newspaper, chalkboard, whiteboard, it's still reading
words made up of letters. Screening is still reading."

However, Hidetoshi Abe in Japan, said in an email that he likes the new term
and agrees it fits our new Internet age. "I think 'screening' makes
perfect sense to represent the way we now take in information via
computer screens. It's a whole new ballgame," he said in a recent

Reading, of course, is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols
printed on a paper surface for the purpose of deriving meaning
(reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning, according to
scholars. Written information on a printed page is received by the
retina, processed by the primary visual cortex, and interpreted in
Wernicke's area.

But when we "read" online (or "screen", in the new coinage), the
digitalized information is processed in a different way. Reading
online is not the same thing as reading on a paper surface in a book
or magazine or newspaper.

If you reading this article on the Taipei Times website, you have just
"screened" your very first article online using this new term. You are
now an Internet ''screener''. Congratulations, and welcome to this
brave new world.

When I asked some members of an online reading discussion group what
they thought about the idea of calling online reading "screening"
instead of reading, I received a variety of answers, most of them
negative, but some of them positive as well. Some people liked the
new word that has been proposed, and others said they didn't like it
at all and that
a new word was not necessary.

Said Liz Hill, a reading consultant in North America: "This is very
interesting. Words do
come and go in our language all the
time, and usage is what makes them stick. However, I don't think
"screening" is the right context for replacing the word "read." I
didn't "paper" or "book", before did I? I do agree that we do
something a little differently when reading online,
but for me it involves the ability to connect or forward that
information so easily, rather than the way it appears on the (yes... I
have to say it) screen.A word involving links or chains makes more sense to me."

Annette Goldsmith of the College of Information at Florida State
University opined: "It's an interesting idea, but I think this
particular term is confusing. Screening text could have the same
meaning as screening calls, that is, doing a quick initial check to
see if it's something you choose to hear or read, as opposed to simply
reading it online."

Sharon Schneeberger said: "My definition of reading includes making
meaning of text. That definition if reading remains the same
regardless of the genre or format you are using to access the text."

Schneeberger added: "I think retention has to do with my purpose for
reading. Sometimes online I start to read something and by following
the various links end up finding out something far more interesting.
What I read online is usually shorter and is different than reading a
whole book. Sometimes I read a journal article online, but still that
is not like reading a book.
I do not have a Kindle and wonder what reading a book on it is like. I
agree that how we read is changing."

Jeff Hsieh, a Taiwanese-American college student in California, noted:
"Personally, I
prefer reading from a real, solid, hard copy, whether it is books,
news, or anything. The comoputer screen gets my eyes tired."

Kit Stoltz, a reporter based in Los Angeles, noted: "Maybe be the word
will stick, maybe not, but I'll remember it."

Jalel Sager, an expat editor in Vietnam, said: "The writer in me bridles at
the new word. Frankly, I think 'screening' has too many other closely
related meanings, especially. the one that means "to filter" -- which
is kind of interesting, because that's really that you do when you
read online -- filter information from the online sea."

Jenny Schickley opined: "I don't think the term "screening" to refer
to any print read online is appropriate. I think if you are reading
words it is reading. However, I have noticed the propensity
in myself and my students to skim images and headlines to gather hot
topics or to
attempt to find something more interesting to bother to read in
detail. I would accept the term "screening" to apply to such quick
scanning -- but not to actual
moments when I take the time to read properly."

Anne Moten from Australia said: "I don't know that we can define
reading as something related only to
books, for example, we read maps, and music scores. I think it is more
related to the act than the format."

Allen Bean in London said: "I am wary to qualify or re-name the term
reading -- merely because people are "reading" in different formats."

Waller Hastings of Rutgers University in New Jersey noted: "Before we
get all involved in trying to figure out the "best"
alternative word for ''reading'' on line, maybe we should pause a moment to
determine what it is that we think is so different? "Reading" is, at
minimum, the decoding of text from symbolic representation (the words)
to cognitive concept (the ideas). I read the credits to a movie on the
movie screen, I read the words on traffic signs when I drive the
Interstate, I read text from books, periodicals, and newspapers, I read
things on the Internet. We have used "reading" to refer to the first
three kinds of actions for quite some time - so why do we suddenly need
a new word for the same action applied now to a different interface?"

"As to the idea that we don't fully read text online, well, we don't
always read text in detail in any other situations. I only read movie
credits to identify actors, music, or other details about which I am
curious; I stop reading a road sign when I realize it is not the exit I
am searching for; I skip quickly through a book or a periodical article
if I have only a minimal interest in it, or to quickly pick up the gist.
This latter activity we have traditionally called "skimming." How is
skipping the details in an e-mail any different?"

"I'm all for changing the language to meet new demands, but I frankly
don't see why this is such a demand."

So Dear Reader, what's your take on this new coinage "screening"? Does
it make sense, does it add up, or is it the wrong term for what is
going on online these days? If you have any other words or terms,
you'd like to nominate, please send them to this newspaper in care of
the letters editor.

Michele Cameron Drew said...

Cool tool and an excellent article!

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