Printed Books Make Scents

There’s something else to love about books on paper.

When you step into a new car, it’s easy to notice that “new car smell.” And if you’ve ridden in one from the 1960s or older, you’ve likely noticed an “old car smell.” But there’s also a distinctive aroma for printed books.

If you’re a bibliophile with a sharp sense of smell, you may already be aware of this. But I recently encountered an infographic that explains the scent of books — new and old.

A new book smell has three sources: the paper, the ink, and the glue used to bind it. Each has complex components, including benzaldehyde, which smells like almonds, and 2-ethyl hexanol, which smells slightly floral.

But that’s just the beginning — especially if the paper was made with wood pulp. Over time the cellulose and lignin in the paper oxidize, which releases tiny amounts of various organic compounds, each with their own scent. Together, they produce the distinctive old book smell.

Readers can associate that scent with the wondrous experience of immersing themselves in a good book.

Consciously or not, readers can associate that scent with the wondrous experience of immersing themselves in a good book — even if it’s not about organic chemistry.

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.
Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.