Dry leaves and fall mornings: That amazing old book smell has some geeky science!



I appreciate and embrace the accessibility and convenience of ebooks. There are, however, parts of the analog reading experience that cannot be duplicated in the digital world. The texture of paper, the raised lines of thick ink, and probably the most recognized: The smell of old books. The musty thick scent is distinct, sometimes being the difference between used editions I might purchase in a store. It is all reminiscent and nostalgic. When  I was a kid, sitting in the public library, stacks of books piled high. Reading in my school, or in my 3rd grade classroom 'reading nest' (Thanks Mr. Applegate!).

I fully embrace that I am a whore for smelling and touching books. New or old, I have a great love. I jam my snout into a book, hold it close and just breathe. 

That sounds creepy. This is nothing like the book "Perfume, The Story of a Murderer" (Suskind). Let's try this again.

So, earlier this week something showed up in my news feed that jumped out at me. a scientific explanation of book smell. Turns out people far smarter than myself have spent time delving into the why and how of scents.

The article I read was not the first of it's kind. I read a couple others and went down a short internet rabbit hole. What was at the bottom of the rabbit hole? From where I sit, is seems entirely plausible that book smell may actually be an addiction/addictive drug. I have made a very non-scientific decision that smelling books might literally be like huffing glue. I have nothing to back up this hypothesis, and recognize it could be akin to faked moon landings and flat earth perspectives. 

When I smell old books, I smell cinnamon and dry fall leaves, it is a specific trigger for me that inevitably causes feelings of elation. I am wired this way, those neural pathways are set. 

Is there a relationship to the paper and glues breaking down and how I feel? Is there enough off-gassing of the VOC's to have a physical impact on my brain besides nostalgia?

Check out the following links (Google has more). Both of these articles are fairly insightful

Better article: Why do books smell so good?
https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/why-do-books-smell-so-good.html

Good article: Where does the smell of old books come from?
http://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/where-does-smell-old-books-come/


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