I’ll Buy a Kindle When They Create a “Book Smell” App


Smells are condensed feelings. The first girl I ever made out with was a hot little blonde from Texas. Just to be sure I remembered her, when I wasn’t looking she poured her White Shoulders perfume all over my car seat.

I remembered her.

For years afterward, every time I smelled White Shoulders, I’d turn in a haze of youthful lust and see, 9 times out of 10, a blue-haired old lady pushing a tennis ball-footed walker.

Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Of course it wasn’t the perfume, it was the memories I associated with it—the girl, the sultry summer nights, the hormonal joy—that I loved.

A far more enduring (and dependable) association, for me, is the smell of my first true love—with whom (or rather, which) even now my wife and I share a passionate love triangle: Books.

I can’t remember when I wasn’t in love with books—with the places they took me, the things they made me feel, and the ideas they introduced me to.

As early as I can recall, I would thrum their pages, feather their edges, and breath deep their aromae so that later, as I drifted off to sleep, I could recall “the smell of” Huckleberry Finn or The Call of the Wild or The Three Musketeers. (Ahem. Don’t think literal here, think literary.)

There were newbook smells—paper, ink, and binding (or, in the case of paperbacks, glue—wonderful glue). There were oldbook smells, faded versions of the former with all kinds of exotic mold overlaid. And not just any mold, but bookmold. Libraries are virtual harems of bookmold. Be still, my beating heart!

Books like The Once and Future King, Dune, The Lord of the Rings, The Time Machine, Slaughterhouse Five, Watership Down, and I Am Legend took me to places I could never have gone without them.

Books like Cry the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Flowers for Algernon, The Great Gatsby, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Catcher in the Rye broadened my understanding of what it means to be human.

And books by writers like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Aquinas, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and most importantly The Bible, changed who I am.

Traditional books are being replaced by ebooks. No doubt many traditionalists (including me) will keep libraries of “real books,” just as jazz, blues, and classic rock aficionados keep libraries of “real music” on pristine black licorice discs.

But it’s the association that will never go away. When Gutenberg introduced the printed book, how many monks and scholars mourned the lost smell of “real books” on vellum and parchment?

Will today’s Millenials and post-Millenials miss the “real book” feel and smell (?) of hard plastic and back-lit e-reader screens when heads-up holographic books take their place?

Of course they will.

But what will never go away—God forbid!—are the journeys, the feelings, and the ideas that books take us to.

Yes, I’ll probably break down and buy an e-reader in the not-too-distant future. Even if they don’t create a “book smell” app.

But, oh, those sultry summer nights.

Goodbye, books, I love you.

Hello, books—whatever new form you may take—I love you.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Books, Humor, Memoir, Popular Culture & Entertainment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to I’ll Buy a Kindle When They Create a “Book Smell” App

  1. insight07 says:

    The smell of books is the most attractive smell! You are so right! I couldn’t agree more with this post. The first thing that I do when I pick a book, is smell it. But it’s also true, ebook reader is more convenient. But the “feel” of hardcover books can never be gone. I feel I am truly reading a book, when I can feel the pages, smell them, and ofcourse carry the big fat book along with me everywhere. But yeah, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hemphaus says:

    Cool post!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. freakenstine says:

    Yeah .. the smell of books have something special in them.. I guess people like you and me are addicted to it, but lets not discuss it more or else the Govt. might start an anti-booksmell campaign.

    I remember that my fasination with books and their smell was since i was a child. Every year when I used to get new books in school, I used to get a high out of all the differnt kind of smell from so many books.

    Thanks dor letting me know that I am not alone in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. freakenstine says:

    Reblogged this on fictionizta and commented:
    Yeah .. the smell of books have something special in them.. I guess people like you and me are addicted to it, but lets not discuss it more or else the Govt. might start an anti-booksmell campaign.

    I remember that my fasination with books and their smell was since i was a child. Every year when I used to get new books in school, I used to get a high out of all the differnt kind of smell from so many books.

    Thanks dor letting me know that I am not alone in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrownPotato says:

      I broke down….

      I have an kindle now. I do miss the smell of ink and the pages… I miss the rustle of paper on the fingers…

      But at the same time, I love the way Kindle has helped me carry my books anywhere I go.


  5. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    When I think of summer, I think of girls and books! This little ode (first posted when my blog was new) tells of a passing passion for a girl and a lifetime of lust–for books!


  6. alslaff says:

    Ah, Mitch, this wonderful post brought the smell and feel of National Geographic to mind. Haven’t touched one for years, but can you savor it? Remembering also my 6 years in Germany and my hunger there for anything Bonhoeffer. I, too, have written about my love of books, which will not fade. My hope (in sync with classic sci-fi thinking) is that the Lord loves books as much as we do; books abound in heaven, not Kindle. Maybe then I’ll catch up on my reading! God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Yeah, I grew up reading National Geos. Didn’t get to Bonhoeffer till quite a while later, but I plan on hanging out with him in heaven, along with C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and…don’t get me started!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. loreguardian says:

    Love this, and the smell of books! Entering a used bookstore always brings this pleasure back. It will be a cleaner, but sadder world when all books are e-books. (Lord forbid!) I now have to be selective about which hardbacks or paperbacks I keep, for my shelf space has greatly reduced. There’s a program out there that will turn the pages of an e-book and it sounds just like you’re turning pages, but I don’t know what the name of it is. And unfortunately, no book smell. You couldn’t create one, because books have different smells, depending on age. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Erika Kind says:

    I still don’t have a Kindle or similar. Can’t imagine to ever have it… Oh, and yes, smell has a memory function in our head and links to whatever we experienced. Sometimes we don’t even remember the situation but we get a feeling which is linked to the past situiation when we smelled it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. MrsReneD says:

    My favorite is the “old book smell” and the feel of the pages … kind of sad all the technology these days ey? Of course technology is great for bloggers and searching the internet for valuable information, but I too miss real books. My favorite place to go hang out (besides the beach) is a bookstore (weird?).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jacobemet says:

    Such a nostalgically beautiful piece–brightening a Satisfied Smirk from me. I admire the genial yet persuasive way you write–like a Siren’s Song. Very crafty.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Well, there are at least ten of us (you, Mitch, and these commenters so far) left in the world who love traditional books–their heft, their aroma (They don’t SMELL to me!), their thumb-ability, etc. And you’re right Mitch: it’s the associations that books bring to mind that make them so precious to us–including the beloved volumes we’ve carted from place to place, and lovingly re-shelved in new environs. They’ve become a part of who we are. Among my most precious: my grandmother’s Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kayla Johnson says:

    Yep. When I get really down I got to the used bookstore just to smell that smell. I wonder how long until they’ll charge us to smell them at a book museum?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. And this is why I love libraries. Great post, Mitch. :O)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. GP Cox says:

    Reading a book is like taking an adventure – and I sure don’t take adventures holding on a pad with one hand. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Barb Knowles says:

    This is great. I love both my ereader and books. If I could just wave a magic wand and make the font bigger on some tiny print books, it would be perfect. I instantly connected with the smells.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Pictures of Heaven! | Mitch Teemley

  17. smzang says:

    I think I was put on this earth to make sure print books don’t become extinct.
    At the slightest encouragement or in lieu of encouragement, opportunity, I
    launch into my passionate appeal to preserve the printed book. In order to
    get grants for digital devices, some public schools and some libraries were
    required to dispose of a certain percentage of their print books and replace them
    with tablets and/or digital readers. The books were unceremoniously carted to
    dumpsters. Most surely there is room for both and both have their place. I can
    not comprehend that anyone would have the disrespect to put a perfectly beautiful
    book in a dumpster. Oh, dear…here I go again.

    I really just wanted to say … well I guess I said it…
    As always you give us top notch fodder for thought.
    Thank you!


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jennie says:

    Oh, yes! The smell, the feeling you get… it is sensory, one of the most important ways of learning. In my preschool class, pretty much everything is real, especially books 📚.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. smzang says:


    It took me forever to find this post again. I remembered it, but didn’t know when it was published.

    I was having a discussion about books V. kindles and your article says it so much better than I could. Because it is older, I wanted to ask before I reblog it. Is it okay to do so?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      I’d be honored, Sarah. Confession: I did eventually end up buying a tablet, and now read more Kindles than hard copies. But the post wasn’t really about ebooks vs. hard copies, it was about the love of books–in any form–about the power of written words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • smzang says:

        Yes…that’s the point I was trying to make, but it degenerated into a discussion of Book V. Kindle and then someone said it’s the same thing as “a watch with hands” (their words) and a digital watch. I realized I was not doing a good job of presenting my case. I think it was 2015 or 2016 when I started reading your blog but I, over time had read most everything. I had fun going back through and scanning articles. Eventually I found the article and I will reblog it tomorrow (already posted today). Thank you so much for the education that you offer for free. You are appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Aw, thank you, Sarah. You honor me far beyond what I merit.


  20. Pingback: I’ll Buy a Kindle When They Create a “Book Smell” App – Pitching Pennies Poetry

  21. smzang says:

    thanks Mitch,

    The article is up but there was an issue. A person linked to it who has been pinging back most of my posts. Unfortunately he has several sites, all of which seem to be commercial ventures and I suspect at least some of them are fraudulent. As soon as he pings back a post I remove the ping back from my site, but when I went to see if that would remove it from his site(s) too, it showed that the site was closed. so, I just made the post private. When I got home from church, I rewrote it and posted it again, removed him from my followers’ list and sent an email to WordPress support.
    Then I posted a disclaimer in a separate post. I apologize if this puts your name where you wouldn’t want it. As I mentioned I have already contacted wordpress support to see if there is any way they (or I) can make sure that he is not making use of the article. I received an automated reply saying they would get back to me in 24 to 48 hours. If you prefer I remove the article I will do so.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s