Person holding old book

We All Love the Smell of Books and Scientists Now Know Why

You know that feeling when you’re rummaging through a bookstore, scanning titles and covers, and you find the perfect one to crack open? You look at what’s inside. The prose is touching, engaging, and fun. But best of all is the smell. You stuff your face into the pages, and inhale as deep as your lungs allow. Mmmm.


Girl smelling book

via How It Works Magazine


Well, science has gotten to the bottom of why the book smell is so irresistible. Researchers at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage conducted an experiment asking how participants felt about a number of different aromas. Among them, of course, was an old book. Their findings were published in Heritage Science.


Without knowing what they were smelling, participants overwhelmingly described the smell of books as being like chocolate. The second most common scent was coffee. According to the researchers, aging paper has some of the same chemical compounds (A.K.A. VOCs) as chocolate and coffee. In that sense, it’s not so surprising participants were able to identify the familiar aroma, especially since most readers are probably friends of chocolate.


Book smell word cloud

via Heritage Science


Interestingly, when introduced to a room full of books, participants were not consumed by a powerful chocolatey smell. Instead, they mostly described the scent as “woody” and “smoky.” This leads me to wonder: does a chocolate store smell “woody” and “smoky” too? Guess I’ll need to go find out. Be right back!




Feature image by Lilly Rum on Unsplash