Are You Sure You Want to Sleep With Someone Who Smells like a Gutenberg Bible?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Humankind’s yearning to travel to the stars or plumb deepest canyons of the oceans is understandable. Harder to fathom is the desire to make men and women smell like books.

If anyone understands desire, however, it’s Karl Lagerfeld, and he has now released a scent called “Paper Passion”, a surefire sex attractant for those who, until now, have claimed they would rather stay at home with a good book than have a love affair. Now they can have both in the same bottle.

“Beautiful paper,” Lagerfeld rhapsodized in a Melville House blog by Nick Davies, “is for me the top of luxury … I am a paper freak. It’s a physical passion. I cannot live without paper. Touching perfect paper has something sensuous about it.”

Perhaps the sensuous paper he is referring to is US currency: A bottle of Paper Passion will cost you $98. But that’s cheap if it helps you score a lover. Just daub a little on your pressure points and head straight for the reading room of your local library. Bring a stick to fight off the panting candidates for a night in your bed.

This is not the first time that we have chronicled the quest for aromas related to books. See for instance Do You have Any Books That Smell Like Spare Ribs? And a while back we wrote up a book lover who said she was reluctant to buy a Kindle “unless Amazon comes out with a special ‘book scented’ Kindle.” (See If They Can Make the Kindle Smell Like a Book, Maybe She’ll Buy One).

It was all kind of a joke, but an enterprising manufacturer took it seriously enough to produce a line of aromatics simulating book scents. The aromas include New Book Smell and Classic Musty. The product is trademarked as Smell of Books™ and here’s how their website describes it:

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience? Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right? If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book. But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books™, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer. Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book. Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible. Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that real book smell you miss so much.

Among the five smells offered is “Crunchy Bacon”. This is a welcome novelty for noses jaded by such natural book fragrances as grass, leather, printer’s ink, and decaying paper. Hopefully, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France will invest heavily in shpritzing their collections with Crunchy Bacon.

Some other but lesser known aromas associated with books are baked lamb shank, General Cho’s Chicken, and asparagus vinaigrette.

On a more scientific note, Henry Fountain of the New York Times reports on research to quantify old-book odors to help librarians preserve books more effectively. Fountain describes how conservators “analyzed the volatiles produced by 72 samples of old paper of different types and in varying condition from the 19th and 20th centuries, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. They found that some compounds were reliable markers for paper with certain characteristics — high concentrations of lignin or rosin, for example, which make paper degrade relatively quickly.”

There was apparently no manifestation of crunchy bacon in the spectrum analyzed by the scientists, but it is well known that subatomic bacon particles are even more elusive to detect spectrometrically than the Higgs boson, and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN may be required to capture one. Read Digging Into the Science of That Old-Book Smell.

Richard Curtis

Expert Publishing Blog
Richard Curtis

About Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a leading New York literary agent ( who foresaw the Digital Book Revolution and launched an e-book publishing company early in 2000. E-Reads ( is one of the foremost independent e-book publishers in the industry, specializing in reprints of genre fiction by leading authors in their fields. Curtis is also a well-known authors advocate, author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including several books about the publishing industry, and prolific blogger – see his hundreds of other blog posts here.


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