My favorite episode of Seinfeld was when Kramer tried to invent a perfume that smelled like The Beach. He figured he would make a fortune from the idea, and he tried to sell it to Calvin Klein.

SMELL MY ARM, JERRY C’MON SMELL MY ARM!books, humour, writing, funny videos

Why is this relevant?

It occurs to me that one of the great objections many people have to the eBook is the sensory deprivation that accompanies it. People crave the smell of a well-worn book and say that you just don’t get sated in the same olfactory manner by a mobi file.

Which is absolutely true. So I had an idea; I think Kindle and Nook and Apple should stop worrying about making their new eReaders lighter, more colourful, more techhead-friendly etc. They really don’t understand the market. What they really need to do to increase sales is impregnate them with smells.

I think the prototype models should come in three basic smell options that people would associate with various reading experiences. For instance you could choose between:

books, humour, writing, funny videos

  • New York Library
  • Coffee shop, (choice of spring or rainy afternoon)
  • American Airlines, coach class

But on the way to Apple, I’m going to stop off at Calvin Klein and drop this idea on them: perfumes that smell like books.

Think about it:

‘Darling, I got you Calvin Klein’s new eau de British Library Rare Books Reading Room for your birthday.’

‘Oh, darling, you didn’t.’books, humour, writing, funny videos


‘God, I can’t keep my hands off you. You smell just like that Encyclopaedia Britannica I keep in the attic!’

But why stop there? After all, it’s getting increasingly difficult for authors to get paid for their work in this digital age. Everyone expects books to be free. So writers could cash in on cachet, find an extra source of income by lending their name to fragrances.

‘God, you hunk, are you wearing Jennifer Weiner for Men?’

‘Smell my arm! Phillip Roth!

books, humour, writing, funny videos

‘typical male author models his new cologne’
photograph: kimballsandra@gmail.com

I think it might be a welcome income stream while Publishing sorts itself out. Of course, it’s the well known authors that may benefit the most from my idea. (‘Chanel’s new Stephanie Myer. It’s what your neck’s for.’)

And it it doesn’t have to stop there. If we like the scents, why not have it everywhere? The car could have an odorizer that mimics the smell of an original edition H. Rider Haggard. The kitchen could have that fresh-from-the-press Wolfgang Puck cookbook tang. And then there’s bathroom deodorizer.

Dan Brown, perhaps.

Of course odor alone doesn’t solve every problem for those who love print books. There’s other issues; you can’t show off the novels you’ve read, for instance. I’m assured however that IKEA will soon start selling fake books with their bookshelf kits – then you can still have a spine that says ‘Midnight’s Children’ or ‘Ulysses’ without feeling guilty about not having read it.

But there’s more; with an eBook we forego that special pleasure of turning a page; of seeing how far we’ve got to go till the end instead of working out percentages; of being able to flick quickly back through the pages when you’re trying to work out some intricate plot point. We may even miss that jarring clunk at bedtime when the book falls on our noses when we fall asleep halfway through chapter eleven.

books, humor, writing, funny videos

‘A saucy hint of Franzen, that delicious whiff of Grisham and do I detect just that lovely, nutty Bukowski?’
photograph: j. nathan matias

I could be wrong about this. I thought I was on a winner with Baby’s Head eau de toilette but still not too many women are wearing it.

But I’m going to give this my best shot. We need to bring the nose back into prose. In fact that’s going to be exactly my pitch when I see Calvin.

Better go. I’m meeting him at the British Library Rare Books Reading Room in ten minutes.

He goes there a lot. He likes the smell.

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. ritaroberts says:

    Well ! You’ve really gone to town on this one Colin. I too like the smell of old books(not musty though) Your idea of impregnating books with a smell sounds a good idea.But rather nice smells such as, Eu de cologne for men and maybe different perfumes for women.Of course the work invovld would be sorting whats a womans book and which is a mans book.

  2. susielindau says:

    I love the smell of old books and antique shops, but I don’t think everyone does. My husband hates that smell! 🙂 When you experiment with the scents, include the beach option… 🙂

  3. Julia Robb says:

    Only a novelist would think of book perfume (and that’s a compliment from a fellow novelist).

  4. Dan Brown … for the bathroom… Brilliant!

  5. asraidevin says:

    I think books smell musty period. Gah, I think we’ve come to associate the smell with the FEELING of reading a good book, but the smell itself is not particularly appetizing.

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