The smell of books holds a certain allure for us. Whether it’s a freshly printed, new book or the yellowing pages of an old copy, die-hard book lovers can’t help but stick their noses into their books and sniff the fragrance that makes us feel like home. That’s why there’s even a perfume that mimics the essence of a book! 

Nothing compares to the smell of a good ol’ paperback. 

Every book-lover has thought about this at least once (if not more) in their lives – what is it about the smell of books that we love so much? Turns out, there is an answer. There’s a whole scientific explanation behind the intoxicating fragrance of books. 

It is because of the presence of chemicals called volatile organic compounds in paper.

Books give off their smell as these VOCs decompose over time.  Some chemicals involved in the production of paper like benzaldehyde, vanillin and ethyl hexanaol produce VOCs, which with time, give off a sweet odour. That’s why old books have a sweet smell with notes of vanilla flowers and almonds. People also describe this scent as chocolatey, coffee-like, and some may even attribute it to a fish market and dirty linen.


But then what about new books? Their smell is just as enticing. Well, the reason why we love the smell of a new book is the combination of chemicals used in manufacturing of paper, ink used to print the book, and adhesives used in the process of book-binding. 


Chocolate and coffee are said to contain similar VOCs as found in decaying paper. Thus, it’s no wonder we find the smell of older books both familiar and appealing. And there’s nothing like the smell of freshly-printed books to give us the perfect high every bibliophile craves.