The Surprising Reason Why Books Smell So Good

Admit it: You've sniffed books before, too.

Old books, new books, passed down books, textbooks, thick books, thin books — they all have a pretty distinct smell, and there's actually a ton of science involved in explaining why.

Andy Brunning, a Cambridge chemistry teacher, studied the chemical makeup of both old and new books and revealed his fascinating findings on his website, Compound Interest

Basically, his research says that all books are made from a large variety of different papers, binding adhesives, and printing inks, depending on the manufacturer, which causes them to give off a unique combination of compounds. These combinations give the book its own interesting and unique smell.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Overall, there isn't a ton of research around the smell of new books, Andy said. But there is a lot research around the aroma of old books because this science can help access the condition and age of old books.

In regards to new books, certain compounds like hydrogen peroxide, which is a bleaching agent, and alkyl ketene dimer, which makes the book water resistant, contribute to a book's unusual smell. That and the fact that a large amount of paper is made from wood pulp, which explains why new books can smell like you just stepped inside the Home Depot. 

Most Popular

For old books, other compounds found mostly in the paper, like toluene which has a sweet odor, vanillin, which smells like vanilla, and benzaldehyde, which smells almond-like, are created over time as the book deteriorates.

And you know how old books tend to be a yellow-ish color? That's explained by the presence of lignin, a chemical used in the paper of many books made more than 100 years ago. Over time, the chemical breaks down the paper and causes the color to change. 

So there you have it — new books smell mostly like the woodsy pulp they're made from, and old books smell like all the chemicals they emit as they age. But the big takeaway is clear: books contain a lot of chemicals, so we should probably stop sticking our noses in the pages to smell them. 

Via

What do you think?

Life
Share
If You Drink Your Black Coffee, You Might Be a Psychopath
Score another point for the Pumpkin Spice Latte crowd.
Life
Share
9 Photos of People Having Casual Run-Ins With Their Doppelgängers at Museums
If you were wondering where you'd meet yours, you know where to look.
Life
Share
7 Most Common Beginner Workout Mistakes, And How to Avoid Them
How many of these are you guilty of making?
Life
Share
This Japanese Breathing Technique Can Help You Lose Up to 13 Kilos Quickly!
Bonus: Experts say, this technique will strengthen the body's muscles and increase metabolism too.
Life
Share
Cosmo Exclusive: Here's a Diet That'll Help You Drop a Few Kilos in Just 10 Days!
Yes, it's possible without sacrificing any Instagram browsing time.
Life
Share
This Depressed Egg Cartoon That's Taking Over Japan is the Most Relatable Thing on the Internet RN
One of Japan's most popular mascots is an egg with crippling depression...and he's cute AF!
Life
Share
7 Tips to Throw the Best and Most Stress-Free Dinner Ever!
Throwing a fabulous feast is not such a mammoth task.
Life
Share
Why Is The 'Tide Pod Challenge' The New Social Media Hazard?
Yes, we're ACTUALLY talking about the laundry detergent.
Life
Share
Not a Joke: Here's How to Buy a $1 House in Italy Right the F*ck Now
But — you guessed it — there's a catch.
Life
Share
11 Things You Need To Know About Your Vulva
You thought you knew all there was to know about vulvas? Ha, think again.