Smelling Books

Smelling Books

Story time:

A few weeks ago in my human relations class we were separated into groups in order to practice. . .well, relating with other human beings. In one of our exercises, on of my classmates was given a word that he had to describe while we guessed. After awhile he said that some people like to smell them. After we completely ruled out babies, I figured out that he was referring to books. I was correct, but another one of my classmates was completely confused by this.

He mostly wanted to know who in this wide wide world sniffed books.

This got a few of my classmates talking. One went on in particular about how her boyfriend liked the smell of new books–fresh off the press. Then I started thinking about how some people like smelling old books from libraries.

This got me to thinking, though.

Many people say that they like smelling books, but there are many different types of book scents.

Fresh off the press.

I love smelling new books. Much like new cars, they just have this NEW smell to them.

Library books

The smell of slightly aged paper mixed with the scent of a hundred different houses and hands is relatively interesting, I think.

Used books

The smell of one particular person and house mixed with slightly aged paper. Often results in a somewhat unique smell.

The books that smell like nothing. . .

. . .are such disappointments.

Excluding the books that smell like nothing, each of the books within each of these categories have different scents and I can’t figure out why. Is it the type of paper? Is it a smell unique to the publisher? I don’t even know how to describe the smells in order to explain what I mean.

So when we say that we like to smell books, what do we mean? I like all of the different scents I’ve found so far, but when we talk about that “book” smell, I don’t know what smell we’re referring to.

What do you think? Is there a certain smell that encompasses the entire “book smell” for you? Let me know in the comments below!


9 thoughts on “Smelling Books

  1. I think the “book smell” has a lot to do with nostalgia – the smell of a new text book, a paperback as you’re flipping through it. For book lovers, the smell evokes emotions of happiness that we get from reading, and scent is one of the most powerful senses in evoking emotions. I personally prefer new book smell as opposed to old book smell. The smell is a mixture of the paper used, ink, glue etc. and with old books its the smell of degradation, which isn’t so nice to think about lol R x

    1. Nostalgia really does make perfect sense. I always seem to think books I’ve really loved have a much nicer smell than ones I’ve disliked. Or ones that have at least brought back good memories. Then I want to look for similar smells in other books.

      I didn’t even think about the different types of ink and glue used. Thanks for adding that!

  2. That’s an interesting question. I suppose I love the smell of books as well, but it all depends on which we’re talking about; as weird as that is. I don’t got to the library anymore, so I don’t remember what those books smelled like. These days I’m all about “fresh off the press”. Even those have their differences due to paper and how they’re made, it seems. The books made from recycled paper tend to have more of that warm, cottage-like smell to them — which I like.

    I’m afraid this will make me sound like a really weird person, haha!

    1. No, that makes complete sense to me! Warm and cottage-like seems to be a GREAT description for it. I think I know exactly which smell you’re talking about and it’s really nice. I agree with you on fresh off the press books. I used to always get used books, so I liked their scent, but the more new copies I get? Mmm, fresh off the press.

      We can be weird people together.

  3. I theorise that the smell of old, and the smell of new books, evoke different sensations and expectations.
    Based on the premises that smells conjure memories and how certain smells cause certain emotions. Like how the smell of perfume can take you back to your first kiss. How the smell of vomit evokes disgust.
    New books > fresh, expectation, excitement of holding a new novel, a memory of finally getting the book that you’d eagerly waited to be released.
    Old books > sacred, loved, heritage (this book has been passed down to you) wonderment (wonder what kind of person had it before and where it was kept)

    1. What an awesome, unique take on it you have! Nostalgia is probably a great way to describe it. Most of the smells that leave me feeling nostalgic in a good way are smells I really, really like, so I could definitely see that.

  4. Oh I agree that there are different kinds! FOR SURE. I really really love new-fresh-off-the-press smell. I actually don’t do well with old book smell…it gives me allergies. 😦 But library books smell is quite nice too, kind of like air-conditioning mixed with books? Or maybe that’s just in Australia. xD
    Yay for book sniffers!

  5. I’ve heard of people smelling books, but personally, I’ve never taken to it. As much as I love books, I guess I’m just too quick to start reading to take the time to smell them.

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