Friday, 27 April 2012

Science Faction | Why Do Old Books Smell So Good?

Despite my initial resistance to books, the new breed, I do actually own an e-reader. We've talked about it before. In point of fact, it's a tablet in disguise - the original Transformer, if you must know - but after a period of experimentation with Aldiko and several other alternatives, the increasingly full-featured Kindle app has served me very well.

Well enough that these days, the ratio of my reading habits - which is to say the number of e-books I read versus the number of tree-books - is fast approaching 1:1. That said, if I love a book, I'll buy the hardcover, regardless of whether or not I already own an electronic copy. This has become something of an issue in itself... but it's not the issue I want to talk about today.

What I want to talk about today is why I still tend to buy tree-books over e-books. There are many reasons, really, but whenever I have to rationalise my fondness for physical copies, one of the first factors I look to is, oddly, the aroma of a beloved old book. The savoury scent of printed paper. The musty wonders of something second-hand. The way that a simple smell can take you back years - decades, even - to the time you first read through a particular book. A favourite, say.

Speaking of which, I have a mind to spend a minute sniffing my first edition of The Scar, but for the sake of this bitty blog post - already many weeks in the making - I'll resist.

Now I'm not a complete idiot. I don't lead with my nose in altogether too many of my decisions, but when it comes to books, the smell of an old paperback means a great deal to me. Or rather, it did... before I watched the short video embedded below, which aims to explain some of the starter science behind that marvelous musk.

Fair warning and all: this clip has taken the wind out of my sails somewhat, so watch it at your own peril.

So how about now? Still love the smell of old books? Even now you know the aroma is essentially a combination of chemical reactions and rot?

Sniffing The Scar will never be the same again! :/