The latest innovation in ebook technology isn’t digital. It’s aerosol.
The first question that comes to mind is, why? Who would possibly want the smell of books in a can?
Apparently, some people *really* like the smell of books. In fact, “the smell of books” has become a rallying cry among print book loyalists in their fight against the insurgency of ebooks. If ebooks suddenly smelled like print books, paper-sniffing luddites would have one less reason to avoid them.
When you think about it, it’s surprising that Smell of Books is coming from a fringe company like DuroSport instead of a tech leader like Amazon. What’s more, DuroSport’s approach appears to be uncommonly clever. The company has entered the ebook business while neatly sidestepping annoying technical challenges like device compatibility and DRM.
Unfortunately, as with previous DuroSport products, there’s a massive gap between the clever idea and the problematic implementation. In reality, Smell of Books doesn’t live up to its promise.
Hands-on With Smell of Books
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been evaluating a preview version of Smell of Books. I’ve used the product on several reading devices with mixed results.
At first glance, Smell of Books looks precisely like a can of room freshener. But, upon closer inspection, you realize that’s essentially what it is. Except that, instead of spraying the can around a room, you spray it on your ebook reading device. At least, that’s what the instructions say to do.
My first mistake was using Smell of Books on a Kindle. While DuroSport claims the product is Kindle compatible, I immediately noticed problems with the e-Ink display. What happened is best described as screen burn. A portion of the display became unreadable for well over a day. Even after the display became legible again, spots were visible over the text. I’m not sure my Kindle will ever be the same again. It certainly won’t ever smell the same again.
I had better luck using the product on my iPhone. The phone has no obvious signs of damage and functions normally.
One problem is that the smell lingers long after you’ve finished reading. Because Smell of Books is analog technology, there’s no way to turn the scent on when you’re reading, then off again when using the same device for another purpose. As a result, my iPhone now smells strange all the time, not just when I’m using Stanza.
Besides the impact the spray seems to have on some reading devices, I have serious reservations about the quality of the aromas. For example, New Book Smell doesn’t smell right. It doesn’t smell anything like books, new or otherwise. In fact, after using this aroma, my Kindle has a distinct and obvious new car smell.
Classic Musty seems to be DuroSport’s attempt to recreate the smell of old library books. Unfortunately, this aroma had me sneezing for most of the week. When sprayed, the dust and dirt come rushing out of the can like a vacuum cleaner set to blow. The coverage of this spray is so dense that I had to use a special iPhone screen cleaner immediately after applying it. Also, I noticed that the can tends to clog because of the debris. That’s probably not a problem since it’s unlikely that many people would use this product more than once.
Sadly, Eau, You Have Cats seems to be DuroSport’s most realistic scent. Why anyone would want to recreate the smell of cat urine is beyond me. I’ll admit, I’ve owned a few books that smelled this way (in college), but I didn’t inhale and ended up giving them to the Salvation Army. Worse yet, this aroma causes felines in and around our house to behave strangely. Our female cats have been hiding in the back of the closet for three days, and an otherwise friendly neighbor cat suddenly went bonkers and attacked my iPhone while I was reading in the backyard.
There are two more scents, but honestly, I didn’t have the patience to test Scent of Sensibility or Crunchy Bacon. The former is designed to be used on “women’s fiction,” and the latter is not recommended for readers with high cholesterol.
While I support anything that might lead to mainstream acceptance of ebooks, I find it hard to believe that Smell of Books will do anything of the sort. Instead, it seems more likely that Smell of Books might trigger allergic reactions and possibly even damage reading devices.
If you are interested in this product, you are advised to proceed cautiously.
Update: In an unfortunate but not entirely surprising twist, the Authors Guild has threatened DuroSport claiming the company is violating the author’s olfactory rights.
Jane at Dear Author offers a legal opinion on the AG’s threat, claiming that scents aren’t subject to copyright. However, something tells me that won’t stop the Guild from pursuing this matter.
2nd Update: Teleread reports that DuroSport has recalled the current production run of Smell of Books. Apparently, the new book smell really was a new car smell. I knew it didn’t smell right.