According to science, Why Do Some People Like the Smell of Books?


Although it may not come to our mind immediately when we think about it, there are smells that we search for at certain periods whether we want to or not, or that we inhale over and over again when we live. As an example, we can consider the soil settlement that spreads around after rain. Or the smell emitted by newly mown grass can be shown as an example of this. But undoubtedly, the most common of these is the smell of diesel fuel. There are a lot of smells around that won’t stop counting like these.

In this content, we will talk about book smells, which are one of them, and why these smells are very attractive to some people. Although we will use scientific explanations, this issue, which we avoid explaining in a technical way, is simpler than it is thought. Now, let’s take a look together at why book smells are so much loved.

The smell of books 1
The smell of books 1

The different chemicals contained in the contents of the books are basically the structure of these smells. But there are certain differences in the smells of new and old books:
Let’s start with the new books first. There are 3 factors in total that we should keep in mind when evaluating the smell of these. Adhesive used for ink, paper and binding. When these three are blended together, we don’t see the same chemical interaction every time. This is due to the fact that different books are printed with different demands.

Due to this difference, the smells of new books also vary. At first, these three materials that we are counting do not actually emit a very prominent smell. But when they interact with each other, they produce volatile organic compounds, abbreviated as VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). These also begin to emit a sweet smell over time.

When you look at your old books, you often see that both the pages turn yellow due to oxidation and a more intense smell is emitted than in new books. This is due to the Decaying of the cellulose and lignin contained in the structure of the paper in the intervening time.

As a result of this degradation, a large number of new organic compounds appear, and over time, these compounds, which we can sort as benzaldehyde, vanillin, ethyl hexanol, toluene and ethyl benzene, emit a sweet smell.

The smell of books 2
The smell of books 2

Here we can say that the factor determining the intensity of the smell is the age of the book after the chemical mixture. Old books contain more lignin -the compound that gives off the smell of vanillin- than today’s ones.

in a 2017 study, a group of 79 people tried to guess from their smell what things they didn’t know were:

It is stated by most people that a smell reminiscent of vanilla is obtained from books, especially old ones. In this study, the group, who tried to guess different objects from each other by their smell, likened the smell they got from the book to ‘chocolate’ the most. After chocolate, the most received response was coffee.
What do you think the smell of the book resembles? You can share your thoughts about the topic in the comments section.

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