I keep hearing people talking about how they love the feel and the smell of books and that sometimes this trumps the allure of e-books for them.
Should we be adding Real-Book-Smell to the next generation of e-readers?
Smell or scent is a powerful memory aid. I still get drawn rapidly back into my childhood camping memories whenever I smell an old-fashioned rubber air mattress or the scent of tent tarp mixed with spider web.
When people are telling us they like the smell of books and libraries is this what is happening? Are they actually recalling the sweet experiences of youth and visits to the library when life was fun and grand? Is this something we can tap? Perhaps we can hire a perfume manufacturer to create Old-Book-Smell cologne or air freshener for our libraries. Hey, we might even be able to get Old Spice Guy to endorse it!
So what are the components of this book smell? It would have to include:
1. Glue: The smell of drying and rotting toxic glue from many eras. We’ll have to find a safer alternative for the scented version.
2. Dust: The layers of dust accumulated in any library that fly about. The principal component of dust being sloughed off human skin should be easy to acquire cheap and it can be advertised as ‘natural’.
3. Mould: Libraries are loaded with mould in our books and carpets. Again, this is natural and should be easy to acquire.
4. Ink: Recent changes to printers’ ink has removed much of the lead and most are now vegetable based. We would need to find some mix that allows for the scent of the modern and the old ink that combines in your average library. Maybe library book smells are different for the generations too.
5. Dryness: And wrap all of this scent up in a dry air environment that allows for the scent to hang alluringly in the air that has been robbed of humidity by the paper in the books.
There. Now how do we start to create this scent?
Women’s College Hospital in Toronto announced today that they were banning all newspapers and magazines in the hospital waiting areas before the coming cold and flu season because they cannot be adequately sanitized. Some surveys show that one small barrier to library use is germophobia among some people who do not care to share public books. I suppose that could be slyly promoted as another benefit of e-books since we need only worry about those viruses that don’t pass to humans and we can sanitize our e-readers.
Maybe we should be adding e-reader wipes to the circ desk next to the hand sanitizer. . .
Tongue firmly in cheek . . .