Decades of cigarette smoke and cat piss

My new boss is the most lovable bastard.

He is not, as one might think a used book store owner ought to be, sentimental or old-fashioned in any way. He doesn’t wax poetic about anything. Romantics and people with short attention spans bother him. His business is horrifyingly inefficient and simplistic, and he couldn’t care less.

When I came in Saturday for my first day of work, some woman was talking to him about how declining readership was such a pity, and that she “grew up around books — the sight of them, the smell of them, the feel. I’ll never be an eBook reader.”

My boss does not care about the smell and the feel of books. He thinks that there are a great deal of interesting ideas in the world, and that quite a lot of them can be found in books.

He told this woman that she shouldn’t dismiss eBook readers so quickly. “They’re very convenient for travelling,” he said, “and don’t kill so many trees. I have one myself.”

She looked at him, surprised. “Yes, but — surely you understand — the smell of old books. You know?”

“You mean decades of cigarette smoke and cat piss?” he asked. “Sure, they ought to bottle it and sell it.” I had to have a very loud coughing fit behind the counter. The woman proceeded to buy her clothbound books and leave very quietly.

I don’t think she will be coming back. I don’t think he cares.

P.S. — Although I think my boss has got some good points here, there is also plenty of research that tells us that reading on paper has still got cognitive advantages over reading on a screen. Smell does not really enter into those advantages, though.


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