Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Smell of Books

Lately it's a pet peeve of mine when people state that the reason they like "real" books (as opposed to eBooks) is the "smell of it". I place the blame on that Buffy episode when Giles is asked what it is he dislikes about computers and his reply is that famous line--the smell of it. Now that was a great line: it was original and refreshing. Lately though, it's become cliche.

My complaint isn't so much that it isn't true--books do have a smell and most likely, some people do find it appealing. I'll even be the first person to admit that the reason I like brand new books is because of their smell, because they're clean, because they don't plug my lungs with dust. However, people don't use books as perfume. You smell books inadvertently, not intentionally. I don't go out buying books because of its smell (it might sway me to buy the book but most of my purchasing decision isn't based on that sense).

If people are going to be pro-real book, I'd appreciate it if their reasons were more honest. It could be something as simple as it's easier for them to read on paper than on a computer screen. Or that holding a book has a tactile sense while a computer doesn't. Or that it's simply easier for them to utilize a book rather than a computer. There's even the reason that softcopies are abstract and hardcopies are more tangible. Smell, I think, factors in last.

I remember buying a book from Book Sale and it was arduous for me to finish reading the book, mainly because the pages were old and yellow and dusty and various organisms were leaping out of it. I was coughing and sneezing the entire time I read it. Sure, smell was a factor in that reading experience, but it wasn't a pleasant one.

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