A Scent That Can't Be ReplacedI work in IT Support. (Yes, yes, I know. An English major employed as a techie. Go ahead and laugh. I'll write you into a novel someday and you won't be a protagonist. LOL! ) Seriously, though, I work in IT Support, and this relevant because most of my coworkers collect electronic gadgets, and are therefore proud owners of E-Book readers.
Now, I certainly like gadgets-- I work with computers for a reason, after all-- and I have nothing against E-Books in particular, but I was horrified when a couple of coworkers began discussing the possibility of books being replaced completely. They both seemed to think it a wonderful idea-- libraries could be completely virtual, trees would no longer be cut down to produce paper, and students could carry small satchels rather than huge, back-bending book bags. I had to disagree completely.
I believe it was Jorge Luis Borges who said: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” I share his sentiment whole-heartedly, and if a library is heaven, then a world without books would be a living hell. It isn't merely the content of books that makes them so wonderful, but also the look of them, the smooth, cool feel of the cover, the gentle, companionable weight of a book in one's lap, the whisper of turning pages and the way they smell.
Some people seem to think I'm insane when I tell them I like to sniff books. I'm not crazy-- well, alright, I am, but not because of that. My point is that any avid reader with a sense of smell will say that the scent of books is one of the many pleasures they bring. It's a wonderful, relaxing, slightly earthy scent that washes over one when one enters a library. Like a connoisseur of fine wine, a reader learns the subtle differences between different book fragrances. Old books-- especially leather-bound ones-- smell the best. Middle aged books still smell excellent, as do newer books, though the scent is different. Brand new books smell rather nice, but need a little time to really come to their full potential. Only very cheaply made books lack the pleasurable scent, smelling instead like inexpensive glue and dye. No matter where a reader lives, these scents remain essentially the same. A person could walk into a library in New York City, Venice, Dublin or Sydney and still smell that same lovely fragrance. And regardless of how far a reader wanders, that fragrance will always mean they are "home."
Some one once suggested to me that perhaps some company or other would be able to create a book-scented candle, and then I could sit and read my e-book while smelling old pages and musty covers, and I could pretend I was reading a real tome. I just shook my head, deciding that such utter folly would not be reckoned with. Only readers can truly understand that it just wouldn't be the same. Only readers know that the smell of books just can't be replaced.
I hope no one ever has cause to try.