The Scent of a Book

Before last May, more than one person was surprised to hear that I didn’t own a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader. They knew about my love of gadgets and couldn’t imagine why I’d not bought an e-reader yet. My response was the same to all — as much as I loved technology, I liked the smell of a book better.

Everyone who owned an e-reader tried to get me on-board by telling me how light they were. How I’d be able to hold hundreds of books on it. How easy on the eye they were. I heard so many good things about e-readers that I finally researched them and ended up asking for, and receiving, a Nook Color for Mother’s Day last year. I chose the Nook Color because I’d heard it could be turned into a cheap Android tablet — in case I didn’t like the e-book aspect.

Now, a few months shy of a year later, I give you my opinion: I like the smell of a book.

I also like the feel of a book in my hands and I like the sound of the pages being turned. The other day I considered cataloging all of the books in my house with an app I downloaded on my phone. I was excited at the prospect to touch (and smell) each of my books again and either remember the time spent reading them or relish the anticipation I felt about reading them someday. Then I thought about the books I downloaded on my Nook (and the audio books on my mp3 player). I would never hold those books or smell them or hear their pages turning. Did I really read them? Do I really own them? Can I catalog them?

I recalled the library scene from the 1960’s version of The Time Machine. The Time Traveler pulls a book off a shelf only to have it crumble to dust in his hand. Later he is shown the Talking Rings. Are my e- and audio- books like the talking rings or are they nothing but binary dust motes?

I have read a few books on my Nook Color. My favorite was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, but because I loved it so, I ended up with eye-strain headaches from reading it deep into the night. It was convenient to buy the book the day it came out — but it was a whim buy. I probably would have waited and asked for it for Christmas if I didn’t have the Nook.

Autograph of Roger Tory Peterson

Right now I am reading The Big Year on the Nook. (actually I am reading it on my Android phone because my husband is reading the Stephen King book on the Nook). Yesterday in The Big Year I read about Roger Tory Peterson’s account of his Big Year: Wild America and remembered finding a copy of that book in an antique store about 20 years ago. I was a novice birder but recognized one of the authors. Opening the book to check the price ($2.50) I also glanced at the title page and was astounded to see that Peterson had inscribed it with best wishes to a Lloyd Foster. Of course I bought the book. It smells delightful.

This creates another issue — how do authors autograph e-books?

12 thoughts on “The Scent of a Book

  1. Isn’t it weird how often we surprise ourselves, and those who know us best? Here you are, with your love of gadgets, unable to let go of the smell and feel and weight of printed books. And here am I, a total non-techie, addicted to my Kindle….


  2. I’ve been known to finish a book I loved, and clutch it to my chest. It’s not quite the same doing it with an e-reader. But like Lali, I am totally addicted, and find myself delaying reading paper books now because they’re inconvenient.


    1. I know what you mean, Mali. I, too, have clutched books to my chest after finishing them. I find my e-reader more inconvenient than paper books. I always forget to charge it and when I need it it is not ready for me. My husband is better at charging it than I am.


  3. Good question, mom! How would they sign e-books? I’m sure they’ll come out with some e-book pen for those authors’ signatures. I hadn’t thought about the Time Machine in a very long time and that makes so much sense. I feel about e-books the way I feel about dogging the ears of pages, or sometimes writing in books–sacrilegious but convenient and sometimes almost necessary. Only I don’t think I’ll ever own an e-book, but I’ll be damned if I’ve scribbled in my last book, or dog-eared my last page. Excellent web post, mom. I love you, even though you have a nook. 🙂


    1. Thanks Clare. I love it when you read my blog and post comments. Glad you still love me even though I own a Nook. (I guess you were not part of that Mother’s Day purchase.)


  4. I love the physicality of books (and music—I love liner notes!). I still don’t own an e-reader and don’t have much interest, although perhaps I would like one if I had it. Great post, and great luck on finding that Peterson book!


  5. I have always been a book lover. Not just lover… collector. I can’t even get behind reading library books. I must own them. (This is possibly a sickness…?).
    I have a Kindle (it was a gift, about 18 mos ago), and I don’t think I’ve finished a book on there yet. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I’ve purchased a few novels, a few non-fiction reads and a few self-help type books (how to de-clutter your house! etc); and no matter what type of book, what purpose it has in my life – I just don’t enjoy reading it on the Kindle. I’ve traveled with it, and for that it IS handy, I’ll admit. But otherwise, give me paper please. I don’t think I’ll ever convert. (What does one fill bookshelves with?!?!)



  6. Dona, this has nothing to do with this post, on which I already commented, but on the fact that if I click on your new posts as they appear on the blog list on my blog, it brings me to your site but tells me that what I’m looking for cannot be found. Is anybody else having this problem? Please don’t think I’m ignoring you!


    1. Lali — this is probably because occassionally I accidently post something and then delete it. When something is posted it is picked up on a feed and shows up where ever that feed is visible, such as your blog list. What is showing up now is something that was accidently posted via another space I have online (nothing there really) and unfortunately shows up on the blog list. I will try to really post something then all will be well.


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