Book Scent
September 27, 2012 12:51 PM   Subscribe

What is the explanation for a particular pleasant scent that books printed in India and Pakistan seem to have?

I've now encountered books a couple of times, printed in India or Pakistan, that have a scent that reminds me of a middle-eastern dessert. Is there any story behind this? Is this smell added intentionally as part of the manufacturing process?
posted by Paquda to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I noticed this when I was in India, for books and just stuff in general. Especially porous things like paper, textiles, wood, and such.

I noticed a similar, yet different, scent on things my grandparents brought back to the US when they lived in Cameroon in the 80's.

I think different countries, especially countries that are less affluent, have more smells going on, in general.

No idea if we are talking about the same phenomenon or not, unfortunately.
posted by Sara C. at 1:14 PM on September 27, 2012

Some of my Indian books seem perfumey or rose-scented.
posted by goethean at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2012

I'm not sure, but I suspect it's the paper stock or the cover material. It may be that they use something like jute fiber instead of wood pulp. When I was in college I worked in a library that received a great many books from India as part of a government program, so I remember it well.

Unfortunately, everybody who worked with those books developed an allergy to them, OSHA got involved, and I don't know if we ever figured out if it was the different material or some sort of chemical placed on the books to preserve them during shipping. We ended up creating a special place to open and process them.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2012

Maybe they just spent time in a warehouse near some spices or incense? I have a great purse Mr. Arkham bought for me in a head shop that still smells like nag champa...
posted by JoanArkham at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2012

I've always been told that the reason the Indian sections of my library smell funny and cause rashes is because of a particular pesticide they use on the paper while it's in storage to prevent damage from bugs. I've worked at two separate libraries that kept gloves at circulation for people using or shelving the Indian materials.

No idea if this is the same thing, as I wouldn't describe the scent as 'pleasant.'
posted by colbeagle at 4:36 PM on September 27, 2012

Are these new books? My experience is that "new book" smell is mostly which inks are used.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:43 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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