How do you say hello to a book? Do you open it up, press your face between its pages, and inhale deeply? I do, and there are many other secret book sniffers out there. (You know who you are.) We swap stories on obscure online alt. message boards, and some of us even read books.

I love second-hand books because they have a history and personality all their own. It’s expressed in the bus tickets, business cards, notes and shopping lists scribbled on scraps of paper, and postcards their previous owners used as bookmarks; in the tea rings, rubbed, ragged or torn covers, dog-eared pages, a child’s scribble, or an adult’s serious marginal note – they all tell me these books had a place in someone else’s life. And then there’s the smell, like an olfactory aura or the ghost of a book’s past.

If you’ve ever wondered where that smell comes from, here’s a video about the science behind it.

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