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eBooks with that "old book" smell

During the TOC Conference in June, keynoter Manolis Kelaidis talked about how much he loved the feel and smell of books, even those on his shelf that he’s never read. A compelling case for the codex form factor.

Now comes word that CafeScribe.com will be sending eBook buyers a scratch-and-sniff sticker to bring the musty smell of “old books” to digital reading. Says CafeScribe CEO Bryce Johnson:

By placing these stickers on their computers they can give their e-books the same musty book smell they know and love from used textbooks — without any of the residual DNA you often find stuck to the pages of used textbooks.

Likely just a clever gimmick (see Smell-o-Vision),though the underlying survey findings are worth noting:

A survey of 600 college students conducted by pollster Zogby International found that 43 per cent of students identified smell, either a new or old smell, as the quality they most liked about books as physical objects.

(Then again, a more cynical interpretation leaves one slightly distressed that before the quality of the contents, college students place the highest value on a book’s smell.)

What smell would you package with your favorite book?

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  • The printing ink that they used in the 3rd Edition of “Magic: The Gathering.” That smell brings back memories. “Wired” also has the same smell but the magazine paper doesn’t hold it as long as the paper used in the CCG.

  • well considering the quality of most books these I don’t think the smell of fresh barnyard offerings would go over 🙂

  • Antonio

    I went through high school using a Latin vocabulary printed in 1922, which had served already three members of my family. Its pages where yellow and the smell so bad that it made me sneeze all the time. By the same token, are we going to try and cause paper cuts to people who read ebooks? That wouldn’t surprise me, since there are talks of making the Prius more noisy. Instead of “virtual reality” we should talk of “vicious reality”: books printed as fuzzy as your standard LCD screen and as stinky as my vocabulary, as opposed to books printed like on a laser printer and smelling roses.

  • The rationale is clearly wrong, they should not try to mimic the book. As Tim would say – it is “the car as the horseless carriage”. They should make cool e-books, and here I think one can take a lesson from the iPhone. And what is interesting here is also whether people will use the iPhone as a eBook.

    Mads

  • Joe

    Well, I sure as heck don’t want to smell “Cleaning and maintaining your own Septic Tank 101″…

  • Regal

    That “musty book smell they know and love from used textbooks” is known in the business as book rot (mold and mildew). Good books don’t smell. So is CafeScribe suggesting they suffer from bit rot?

  • The old Fractal Design Painter used to ship in a paint can that had a whiff of oil paint smell in it. I know a painter (who also used the software) who just loved that little touch.

  • Really that is a cool news. I still have that smell of the first book from my school days. 😉 . really the technology is making virtuality in to reality.

  • BTW, have they ensured that if I do not read an ebook for a prolonged period of time, it will make me sneeze when I finally do take it up for reading. Oh, and I also like to feel paper when I read books. So while I am scratching the odor sheet with one hand, can I caress some real paper with the other. And when I go from page to page, can I have a real page turning sound and the occasional paper-cut 🙂

    Interesting, but nonsensical use of technology. Until the time that ebooks try to become more and more like real books, we are missing the point. We need ebooks that do not apologize for being capable of much more.

  • Andrew King

    Tom Perrotta’s excellent “The Wishbones” should carry a sticker with the unmistakable of a band on stage. Beer, sweat, warm amplifiers, a hot drummer and the elusive whiff of music being coaxed out of somewhere.
    Andrew