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Friday, 27 August 2010

Smell my circuits, baby!

Book lovers have been groaning over the imminent demise of the book, an object that over time acquires a  pungent smell.. They lament on the aroma a book picks up  and  then look with horror at the aisles of those new fangled eReaders.

Well, I'm of the opinion that anything a book can do an eReader can do just as well and so I've been sniffing eReaders. The salesman in Waterstones looked at me strangely, after showing me the latest eInk display and boasting of its pocket size, when I asked him what it smelled like. "
Um-er plastic, I suppose," was his answer.

It doesn't though - it smells like a Playstation 3. My emails to Amazon asking them what the Kindle smells of have gone unanswered, probably filed away in the folder marked, "Nutters.". My own Elonex smells a bit like cherry pipe tobacco, but then so too do most of my possessions, and a friend of mine owns a Nook and a quick sniff of his just gave me the whiff of electronics.

Unperturbed, I sniffed the new Mickey Spillane/Max Allan Collins hardback, The Big Bang - it smells of fresh glue, paper with the slightest hint of some warehouse on an industrial estate next to a greasy spoon, but of course this is probably all in my imagination. I reach to my shelves and take down an ancient paperback, open it to its centre pages and breath in deeply the dust that has embedded itself into the passage of time - I'm still sneezing ten minutes later as, no doubt, a silverfish burrows up into my brain.

"A smell or odour is caused by volatile compounds which we perceive by the sense of olfaction.  An odour of a book is a complex mixture of odorous volatiles, emitted from different materials from which books are made.  Due to the different materials used to make books throughout history, there is no one characteristic odour of old books.  A professional perfumer has evaluated seventy odorous volatiles emitted from books and described their smells as dusty, musty, mouldy, paper-like or dry."


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