Sniffing Out a Good Book

Kindles. Nooks. As the marketing experts who came up with them would be very pleased to know, the names alone tend to make you want to curl up in a cozy corner by the fireplace with a good book.

I don't have an ereader yet, not because I don't want one, but because I haven't quite managed to decide which one to get. In the meantime, I've been reading some of the discussions for, against, and about ereaders and ebooks in general.

Some readers are passionate advocates for ebooks, some are lukewarm about the new technology, and some vow they will give up their paper books only when their last well-worn copy of "Twilight" is pried from their cold, dead fingers.

One aspect of those discussions baffles me. There are plenty of people who say one of the reasons they enjoy paper books is the way they smell (the books, not the readers). My daughter, who admits to being one of these people, says it's the glue. I suppose I should be grateful that book-binding glue is the only kind she sniffs.

I don't get it. It isn't that I'm olfactorily challenged. I savor all sorts of favorite smells—not to mention being sensitive to all sorts of smells that make me sneeze. But I don't sniff books. I don't think of them in terms of odor. I'll walk into a flower shop, a bakery, or a leather shop, inhale, and say to myself, "Ummm, it smells so good in here." I only do that with bookstores if they have coffee shops in them.

Of course, I don't get the thrill of that famous new car smell, either. Once, when my late husband's construction company had just bought a brand-new crew cab pickup, we drove it up into the hills for a family picnic. By the time we got there, I had a headache and the three kids in the back seat (including my daughter the book-sniffer) were all getting sick from the smell. Maybe the new car smell is more appealing in a luxury SUV with leather seats. Or maybe I've just never learned to appreciate it because I've never bought a new car.

Maybe that's my problem with books, as well. I don't appreciate the aroma because I don't buy a lot of new ones. Sometimes I browse in second-hand bookstores, which do have a distinctive smell, just like second-hand clothing and furniture stores do. It's easy to identify but hard to describe—a combination of musty basements, dusty attics, and closed-off rooms that haven't been aired out in a long time. Add accents of stale cigarette smoke and old perfume, and you have a definite aura that says, "other people's old stuff."

Mostly I get books from the library, and I have to admit a few of them have odors of their own. Cigarette smoke, sometimes, or coffee, or perfume. Once in a while it's strong enough to bother me, but usually I don’t pay much attention.

Apparently I don't care if a book smells like new paper, someone else's attic, or even new electronics. What I do care about is the smells, sounds, tastes, and emotions that skilled authors create. Smell the paper? Never mind. I'm too busy sniffing out the story.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Post navigation

One thought on “Sniffing Out a Good Book

  1. Frank

    Vermillion has two great libraries, the University’s and the city library. Also, I can go on line an see what I have borrowed, the due dates, and I can extend the dates if we aren’t finished reading them. I don’t know much about e books either, but if it entails reading them in front of a computer monitor, forget it. Ginny and I have always been avid readers. Probably could be a lot more productive otherwise, but now, at our age, we can hide behind our restricted abilities. Our son sends us boxes of books for our birthday gifts. Gets them from used book stores and some on line…We have a basement full of books, stored in book cases, 30 gallon trash barrels, stacked all over the place. Ginny got a library of old school books from a small country school house south of Dallas , SD. They were going to burn them and she couldn’t stand to see that happen. Want to see some pre WW1 Geography books? I think there are probaby some McGuffy Readers among the lot. Some day, some one else will want some of them. Maybe one of the Smith girls.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: