Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Smell of Books

One of the most common reasons readers say they prefer paper books over e-books is that they love the smell of books. It doesn't feel you're really reading unless you can make that familiar olfactory connection.

I don't get it. Unless a book is really old or has survived a flood, books have no scent to me. And while the smell of really old, musty books is kinda fun, I don't associate that with books in general nor do I seek out the scent. 

Is there something wrong with my nose? I also don't understand how people hang on to an old friend or relative's clothes or other items because they contain that person's scent. I can't think of a single scent that I identify with a single person. I'm sure other people sincerely can smell someone else's unique scent, but humans (well-bathed humans that is) all smell the same to me.

What about you?

Do you love the smell of books?

What do they smell like?

Do you miss the telltale odor when reading e-books?



  1. I am sorry ... but this post made me laugh out loud!! I think books have this.. smell. It's hard to explain other then a "book smell". I think it's the ones that have been closed for a while?

    That part about clothes... I don't think you can really smell it until that person has been gone for a little while. When my husband deployed once I could smell him on his cloths later after he left. I don't know..... I still think your sense of smell is funny!

  2. I love the smell of new books. They do have this certain smell. Freshly-cut paper? I'm not sure.

    As for the scent of other people, I guess it's their scent (sweat) mixed with the scent of their clothes? I dunno. I only smelled one other person, and that scent stayed with me for a very long time.

  3. I love the smell of books! New books, old books, clean books, damp books... I buy most of my books second-hand as well, so they usually have a scent to them. Some of my favourite books have very specific scents.

    I've heard that your sense of smell can get better the more you use it, so maybe you need to exercise your nose more?

  4. IT's not so much the smell but the whole tactile experience. I like flipping through the pages, the feel of the embossing on the cover, and all that.

  5. For me, the books have their smell..beautiful smell always! I love the smell of books.. and I can't really agree with what you've said here, Not only old and rusty books but even a new, freshly bought book has this odour. Haven't you ever felt the typical smell inside a book store? It feels so lovely to just stand in a bookstore, flipping through the pages of several book, and smelling the bookish ambiance! Like the smell of rain-soaked earth, the smell of air in the festive season- they all have different appeal to me.
    But there's no problem with e-books as such. Its just that physical copies feel more personalized and cozy..

  6. I don't get the book smell at all. I can't smell anything when it comes to books. I know a few people who just have to flip the pages of a new book to their noses and inhale a smell. *Shrugs*

    As of scents, I do remember people from their colognes or perfumes but that's mostly family members as I was growing up. So those childhood memories are connected to the smell.

  7. I admit, I'm a book sniffer. I like the smell of new books. Idk why but they have the scent that just catches me. Maybe I'm weird.

  8. I agree with you about the smell of books. I will take my e-books over real books any day. Unless they are signed favorites then pass them on down! I do think books have a smell to them but it's not a favorite smell.

    Now people are different. There are several people that I know have certain smells that I will forever relate those smells to them. My husband and mother in law in particular. My husband has a very mechanical smell from always working on something plus his cologne and after 20 years together it is ingrained. My mother in law, or grandmother to my girls, may wear different perfume everyday but it is always high end because my father in law will have it no other way. I will always relate her smell to caring, love and shelter and just her. Her and her husbands house is the same way. I have grown closer to her than my own family and as they age it is getting harder and harder to see them need help instead of providing it to us. All I have to do is step in the house and breath in to feel it!

  9. Nothing makes me happier then the smell of books. Like a library or a book store. Used bookstores have their own unique old book smell. I'm a total book sniffer.

  10. I don't notice a specific scent either. Books or clothes. I always thought it strange when people say an article of clothing smells like someone. Unless it smells like their perfume or something, doesn't that mean that item is dirty? lol
    I like the feel of turning pages in a print book though.

  11. I never understood the scent thing. Books or people.

    I like "real" books because I KNOW where all my favorite passages are and it's easier to mark or flip to but I don't smell anything lol

  12. No, not the musty old dusty smell. Actually, it's the NEW book smell that I LOVE....I think its the glue, maybe combined with the ink?? I don't know, but next time you get a brand new book (especially hard backs) just crack it open, stick your nose in it, and breath!!! Mmmm.....

  13. LOL! I love the smell of books, it's hard to describe. I don't like the old musty ones, it's the new book smell. freshly printed paper and the binding. It's just enticing.

  14. I guess I can see that there is a "book smell" ... sort of the smell of the paper and ink, I guess? But I agree with what Mary said, about it being a whole tactile experience. I really like that, and I can see why people cling to it. Used books and stuff, though? Not so much... I'm borderline allergic to dust/moulds, so used books or even old library books are not my friends. I'm much for likely to have "scent experiences" (ha!) with other things, like the scent of fresh laundry is comforting to me, or I love smelling the perfume that my Mom wore for all my childhood.

    Re: books, I definitely find that the experience is in the words and the story. I don't appreciate a book more just because I'm reading it in physical format. I tend to prefer e-reading, actually, just because I find it much more convenient (being able to take it anywhere, etc).

  15. I am a book sniffer. I prefer the sound of cracking open a new book to their smell though.

    As for peoples scent. I lost my grandmother during the holidays in 2008. When my grandfather gave me her jewelry box with other items in i found this bag we made together when i was younger. When i smell it i associate it with her memory. Lavender and cinnamon.

    Books Buying Beauty


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