Why "Old Book Smell" Has Hints Of Vanilla

Stick your nose deep into an old book and inhale deeply and there’s a good chance you’ll smell something with hints of grass and vanilla. The distinctive “old book smell” is so beloved by some readers that there’s a company that sells an artificial spray that makes e-readers smell like old books, as well as companies that offer candles with the same smell that can be purchased on Amazon, Etsy and eBay. So what accounts for the smell? As it turns out, dozens of different chemicals that are emitted by paper, binding, ink, and glue break down over time. As they degrade, they’re converted into vanillin, a chemical naturally present in vanilla beans. These smells are even being used to date old books, as the rate at which they break down can be used to determine the age of some old books.