Book smell explained: 7 infographics, charts, and videos

Addictive book smell in infographics, chart, and videos

Why is the smell of books so addictive? You’ll find the answers in the list below.

The good old smell of the print book is one of the major reasons some people don’t try digital reading.

A paper book consists of an organic material which reacts with light, heat, or moisture, but most importantly – with the chemicals used in the production process.

The smell of a book evolves with time, as the paper decays due to its acidity. The next factor that can modify the smell is the reaction of the book to external materials, for instance, the paper or foil the book is wrapped in.

Why is the smell of books so addictive? Because it’s tied to memory, most likely from the childhood.

What we have to keep in mind is that the nose is one of the strongest ways to trigger memories, because it’s tied directly into the limbic system – the system which regulates our emotions.

We’ll be updating this post every time new infographic, picture, or video about book smell will be released. Stay tuned!

30 book-scented perfumes and candles

Read also 30 book-scented perfumes and candles

Top article

Book smell is back - these perfumes and candles offer scents of leather-bound books, vintage paperbacks, and old libraries.

Book smell in infographics, charts, and videos

1. The aroma of old and new books

The aroma of old and new books explained #infographic

This is by far the most detailed explanation of the chemistry behind the book smell.

In the infographic prepared by Compound Interest, you’ll see compared the compounds responsible for the smell of both the old and new paper book.

As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.

When you buy a new book, you’ll mostly feel the smell of paper itself, the ink used to print the book, the adhesives used in the book-binding process.

The old book smell is a result of the degradation of the three main ingredients described above. What you’ll feel is a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla.

⇢ Credits and more info

2. Why do old books smell so good?

Why do old books smell so well #infographic

Here is a simpler way to learn about the addictive nature of the old book smell. The chart was prepared by the publishing house Blooming Twig.

⇢ Credits and more info

3. The smell of the old book – where does it come from

Richard from explains how old books get have the distinctive smell all book lovers know and love so much.

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.”

⇢ Credits and more info

4. Why we love the smell of old books

A few years ago a team of researchers from around the world conducted a study on the smell of old books. The smell is a mix of hundreds of ingredients, so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper.

Some of the compounds were common to all the tested books: acetic acid, benzaldehyde, butanol, furfural, or methoxyphenyloxime, to name the few.

A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.

⇢ Credits and more info

5. An addictive smell of old books explained

The video created by SciShow explains the science behind the old book smell.

In short, the scent comes from chemical compounds in three parts of the book: the paper, the ink, and the bindings.

⇢ Credits and more info

6. The smell of old books

The smell of old books - an excerpt from Perfume: The A-Z Guide

From Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, written by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, comes one of the most stunning brilliant explanations of the phenomenon of the book smell.

Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.

⇢ Credits and more info

Bonus – scented candle that smells like old books

Werther and Gray - Antique Books scented candle

Antique Books is an original recipe for a scented candle, developed by Werther & Gray, which replicates the scent of old books.

The inspiration for this candle begins with the fragrant chemicals generated by the breakdown of material in the aged paper.

⇢ Credits and more info

7. Color wheel of old book smell

Historic Paper Odour Wheel breaks down the old book smell

This color wheel was created by scientists at University College London, and is based on the results of the research conducted among the visitors of the old library in Birmingham.

This color wheel is designed to help an untrained nose identify an aroma and associate it with the chemical causing it.

The wheel contains eight main categories – they are placed inside the inner circle. The descriptors are grouped on the middle lever. The outer circle is reserved for the likely chemical compound causing the smell.

⇢ Credits and more info

• • •

To get more posts like this, please subscribe by RSS or email. Let’s also connect on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

More lists to explore:

Want even more? Check out all articles in this topic: Lists.

Audible audiobooks

Start the discussion

Interesting: Book smell explained: 7 infographics, charts, and videos
140.4K friends

Tips and tricks

Amazon Prime Day - things not to do if you want to save the most

4 things not to do on Amazon Prime Day

Making the most of Prime Day sometimes means not doing certain things. We list them below.

Cancel Amazon Prime and get a refund

How to cancel Amazon Prime subscription and get a refund

You can cancel Amazon Prime any time. You can also get back your full membership fee if you meet certain conditions.

Gift ideas

Case covers and sleeves for Kindle Oasis 2 (9th-generation Kindle, 2017 release)

Case covers for Kindle Oasis 2 that you might have missed

Here are case elegant but affordable covers and sleeves designed by third-party producers to fit Kindle Oasis e-reader (second generation, released in 2017). They are a great alternative to the original Amazon Origami stand case.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 10 2017 cases, sleeves, and accessories

15 awesome case covers for your new Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)

All-new Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) cases, sleeves, and accessories you can already get. The list is frequently updated with new items.

Best 50

Best Kobo cases and accessories

50 best Kobo cases, sleeves, and accessories

An updated list of the best Kobo case covers, sleeves, and accessories. Kobo Aura One, Aura Edition 2, Aura H2O, Mini, Glo HD, Touch 2.0.

The best Apple iPad case covers, sleeves, accessories from around the web

50 best iPad cases and accessories to buy in 2018

An updated overview of the best iPad cases, sleeves, and accessories from around the web. iPad 9.7 2018/2017, iPad Pro 2017 models: 10.5 and 12.9, and older iPad tablets.

Get free updates via email

Tips, lists, infographics, and fun stuff for ebook lovers. Delivered once a month. After you click the "Subscribe" button, you will be able to confirm your subscription, as well as control all marketing permissions.
Powered by MailChimp - a leading marketing automation platform and an email marketing service trusted by millions.