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Why Do Old Books Smell So Good? (VIDEO)

Posted: 04/11/2012 11:03 am

E-book sales may be on the rise, but some readers remain faithful to their physical novels. Is it the act of turning a page or the prospect of stumbling upon new stories in bookstore aisles that keeps hardcover readers coming back for more? Most will tell you that e-readers lack the multi-sensory experience of physical books -- the sight, the touch, and yes, the smell.

Like fresh rain or comfort food, sniffing a worn favorite novel is a calming experience. But why do old books smell so great?

The ink and chemicals used in the production of a book reacts with heat, moisture and light, causing the organic materials to break down. This is especially true for books with high acidity, like those made during the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to this video from Abe Books, "Chemists at University College, London have investigated the old book odor and concluded that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper. The lead scientist described the smell as 'A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.'"

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Filed by Madeleine Crum  |