Why Do Books Smell? In the Know with 'Dr. Joe'

By Josh Bloom — Feb 20, 2021
Why do books smell? Dr. Joe Schwarcz, a professor of chemistry at McGill University's Office for Science and Society explains in his own unique way in one of his own unique (and wonderful) videos from "The Right Chemistry" series. (And a way to poison readers that may or may not work.) Enjoy.
Dr. Joe Schwarcz: The Right Chemistry

This week "Dr. Joe" Schwarcz takes a look (a sniff, really) at the chemistry of why books have their distinctive smell. The answer is (of course) that books of different eras were made from different materials. Long ago books were made from materials containing cellulose, which, with time, broke down to form small amounts of furfural, which has an almond-like scent. 

As paper materials changes so did the scent of the books. New books now have a distinctive fresh odor because of bleaching agents used to make the paper. And Kindles don't smell at all, but you can buy a spray that (supposedly) be reminiscent of old books while you're reading a bunch of electrons on a plastic screen.

Here's a link to the video.






Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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