Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Timeless Wisdom from Buffy, “Books Smell”

Last night, I was watching Buffy, The Vampire Slayer—hey, everyone’s entitled to a guilty pleasure or two. The episode first aired in 1997, but its message is even more relevant today. What is this timeless pearl of Wisdom?

Books Smell.

Here’s the setup: Giles, the high school librarian and Buffy's Watcher (if you aren’t familiar with the show—besides really missing out—you need to know he fills the role of her the older, wiser mentor type) falls for the school's computer lab instructor. Just one problem (besides the fact that there’s a monstrous demon hiding out in the computer system): Giles hates computers. He explains his aversion to reading information on a screen as follows:

Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences... long forgotten. Books smell. Musty and—and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, uh, it... it has no, no texture, no, no context. It's, it's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um... smelly.”

I think this quote is timely today, as we experience the dawn of the ebook revolution. A time when so many are predicting the death of the printed book.

If I love a book, truly love it (1984, The Martian Chronicles, Danny Champion of the World), then I want to touch its pages, see how the words linger in print, and yes, I want to smell it.

Will we ever stop printing books? Maybe paperbacks. But they’ll always be books, and not just as collector’s items gathering dust in some old eccentric's private library. At least in our lifetime, too many people have a love for the printed word and will be willing to pay a premium to hold their lovers in all her hardbound glory (kinda gives new meaning to the word stacked, doesn't it)?

So, when we talk about the death of books, let's not forget: Books smell. 


  1. Your title pulled me in. :D I love, love, LOVE the smell of a new book! My family thinks I'm crazy. But if someone made a perfume with "New Book" smell, I'd buy it. Long Live BOOKS!
    My Blog

  2. Totally loved that quote. My world subsist on living through my other senses, since I went deaf. Smell is big on recognition past/ present.
    Thanks for this! (Hugs)Indigo

  3. Love this post! One day I will succumb and get an ereader, but books, books, books. Can't get enough of them.

  4. I agree with you. Books have an emotional quality to them eBooks can never have. That said, I also love my eReader, too, for the convenience factor among other things.


  5. I saw that you signed on as a follower on my blog, so I came over to meet YOU.

    I will always love the printed book. I still buy them USED. They're so expensive these days new.

    I like the eReader because I can afford to buy more books to support the author. And I do like reading on it (I have a Nook). It's easier on my aging eyes.

    But there's nothing like the feel of "real" books. I hope they'll never go completely away.
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

  6. I love books and even in the age of the computer screen and ebooks, I'll still love that new book smell. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate the visit.

  7. My daughter has a favorite copy of Emma that she picked up at a used book store. She loves that particular copy because someone stored it in a drawer with apple-favorite pipe tobacco. I have to admit, she's right. It smells divine.

  8. Smell! I love it. You are so right about smell being a powerful trigger, and the quote describes the smell of books well--musty, rich. :) Good stuff.

  9. Ahh, two of my favourite things - Giles and real books :D Great post!

  10. I'm always down for a Buffy reference. And smell is another reason I love books too.

  11. I loved your post..the smell of the books is another reason why i loved reading..:D