Speaking with other book lovers has made me realize: some books smell and feel better than others. And with all the insanity going on in the world lately, you know what we all really need? An (un)official ranking of different types of book formats. Not by content, genre, or anything like that, mind you, but by these four criteria:

1. Cover feel: Does it feel good to hold the book because of the very pleasant texture of its cover? Do you like tapping or scratching this particular type of book (and maybe listening to some book-related ASMR about it)?

2. Page Feel: Does it feel good to run your finger along the words on the page? Does it feel good to turn the page of this book?

3. Smell: How good do the pages of this kind of book smell?

4. Sound: How pleasant are the sounds this kind of book makes (turning the page, closing the book, tapping the cover, etc)?

Let’s begin.


Type of Book Format: Library Bound

You know that big shelf full of encyclopedias you might find in libraries or locked in display cases that look too fancy to touch? Think those.

rows of old, leather-bound book on display

Cover Feel: 5/5

Page Feel: 3/5

Smell: 4/5

Sound: 5/5

Out of every kind of book, library bound books are the ones I most love tapping (do you ever tap your knuckles against these books? Best sound ever). The feel of the pages is usually pretty standard (typically slightly thicker than the average hardcover book), and the smell—as with most books—usually depends on the age, with older books smelling the best. Generally speaking, though, library bound books usually smell pretty damn good, which is why I chose to rank them a little higher than average. I just trust them that much.

These books are also known for their thick binding, which makes them great to hold and produces an extremely pleasant sound when you turn the pages and especially when you open or close the book. The strongest thing about the library bound book, however, is most definitely its cover, both for its elegant appearance and the amazing sound it makes when you tap on it.


Type of Book Format: Paperback

Probably the most common books you’ll find in a bookstore. Most of my books are this type.

secondhand old paperback books on a table

Cover Feel: 2/5

Page Feel: 3/5

Smell: 4/5

Sound: 4/5

I don’t like paperback covers. They’re soft and smooth and boring and they get everywhere (Seeing a book with the cover missing always makes me sad). The page feel is also pretty average, though I will say older paperbacks do feel pretty great, especially when you turn the page (both in terms of sound and feel).

The strongest thing about the paperback is its smell and sound, turning the page in particular. It also receives bonus points because it’s usually significantly cheaper than its hardcover counterpart. More bang for your buck. More books to sniff.

I know this post might have you thinking otherwise, but I don’t go around sniffing books for fun. I swear.


Type of Book Format: Mass Market Paperback (w/ Old Yellowed Pages)

Science fiction, old fantasy, and romance books you might find at airport stores or other places most people are probably in a rush or in need of entertainment.

stack of classic murder mystery books by Agatha Christie

Cover Feel: 1/5

Page Feel: 4/5

Smell: 5/5

Sound: 4/5

I don’t see these very often, except in—as mentioned above—the kind of places a traveler might be in a hurry yet also in need of some convenient entertainment. I see these primarily in used bookstores, stores near airport terminals, and grocery stores, and they tend to be science fiction, fantasy, or romance books that are part of a long, long series.

I don’t like the cover. It’s paperback, but smaller. Not much to say about that. I do, however, love the way the pages feel, particularly when you turn the page. It’s got a nice, somewhat crisp sound and a pleasant feel, but only when you turn it at the right speed. Turning the pages of these kinds of books too slowly or too quickly is a crime to readers everywhere.

Even better than the feel, though, is the smell of older mass market paperback pages, which arguably have the best and most noticeable smell of all books. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the pages are smaller and the book is more compressed than the average paperback, but I just love the smell of old mass market paperbacks enough that it was an easy 5/5.


Type of Book Format: Mass Market Paperback (w/ Fresh New Pages)

Most likely science fiction or fantasy books. Same as paperback, but smaller and darker, more yellowish pages.

hand holding a mass market trade paperback book opened to chapter thirty

Cover Feel: 1/5

Page Feel: 3/5

Smell: 3/5

Sound: 3/5

Honestly, these are pretty much the same thing as old mass market paperbacks with one important distinction: the smell and sound are both significantly worse in newer books than their older counterparts. That’s right, I said it.

They aren’t bad, mind you; just pretty average. All of that combined with the mediocre feel of the cover makes newer mass market paperbacks pretty…meh.

I do like books with fresh new pages, though. I’ll give them that.


Type of Book Format: Hardcover (no jacket)

A lot of the older books I’ve seen look like this, especially series.

tower of books on white wooden desktop

Cover Feel: 5/5

Page Feel: 4/5

Smell: 3/5

Sound: 4/5

Even though hardcover and library bound books are pretty similar, I put them in separate categories because regular hardcovers lack the fun and sturdy binding that makes opening library bound books so satisfying and typically have slightly thinner pages. Without the binding, the sound of hardcover books is ranked a little lower than library bound books, but still pretty high. I also ranked the page feel a little bit higher because I prefer the slightly thinner pages of most hardcover books to the thicker pages of most library bound books.

Aside from that, hardcovers smell pretty typical. There does tend to be a lot of variety for most retail books—both hardcover and paperback—but just to keep things consistent and so I can avoid having to find a bookstore to sniff a bunch of random books to test my ranking, I’m just gonna give it an average ranking since the average hardcover book smells, well, average.


Type of Book Format: Hardcover w/ Jacket

Books you’re most likely to find in the “Newly Released” section in bookstores.

close up hardcover books back edges on retail display of book store or shop

Cover Feel: 3/5

Page Feel: 3/5

Smell: 3/5

Sound: 4/5

Like old and new mass market paperbacks, I chose to separate hardcovers with and without jackets because that single distinction has a big impact on how the books are ranked. In this case, I would actually rank hardcovers with jackets lower than those without.

I know, I know. Hear me out.

Hardcovers without the jacket sound and feel amazing. I could tap a hardcover book all day long (I don’t do that, I promise). I didn’t hesitate ranking the cover feel for hardcovers without jackets 5/5, but then I realized something…it actually does depend on whether or not it has a jacket.

You can still get a similar sound from tapping on a hardcover book with the jacket. But there’s something less satisfying about having a cover wrapped around it when you tap on it. It muffles the sound a little bit, it doesn’t feel as good to tap because you feel like you’re tapping on plastic instead of the book, and I don’t like holding books with jackets as much because my dumbass constantly lets the jacket slip off anyway.

You might be asking, “But Bree, why don’t you just take off the jacket, then?” NO. It was intended to have a jacket. It has to keep the jacket. It’s not the same if it doesn’t have its jacket, and I hate it when my hardcovers with jackets lose it.

So yeah. I don’t like books with jackets. It just feels like a responsibility I didn’t ask for, yo.


Type of Book Format: Large Hardcover w/ Those Really Weird, Thin Pages and Small Text

Usually dictionaries or encyclopedias.

a magnifying class on top of an open dictionary

Cover Feel: 5/5

Page Feel: 4/5

Smell: 2/5

Sound: 5/5

Just a note: a hardcover with really weird, thin pages and small text may fall under library bound, but library bound doesn’t necessarily fall under a hardcover with really weird, thin pages and small text.

Fight me.

Anyway, I love how hardcover dictionary and encyclopedia covers feel. Because they’re dummy thicc, tapping or knocking on the covers of these kinds of books produces a low, extremely satisfying sound, and the thin paper arguably makes the best sound of all the books when you turn it. These kinds of books are also evidently designed for you to run your finger along the words (they’re usually reference books, after all), so it makes sense that the paper they use would be both thin and smooth.

The only major downside to these books in my experience is that these usually either smell pretty “meh” or don’t smell like anything at all.


Type of Book Format: Textbook

Note: I’m not talking about the shitty digital textbooks meant to squeeze students out of their money. These are the shitty print textbooks meant to squeeze students out of their money.

closeup of an open mathematics textbook

Cover Feel: 3/5

Page Feel: 2/5

Smell: 2/5

Sound: 4/5

I actually like the feel of most textbook covers and pages, but I removed a point or two from each category because fuck the textbook industry.

The cover is nice. Because textbook covers pretty much always have an ungodly thickness and are almost always hardcover (unless you happen to have to buy the ones with no binding that still cost the same amount as a normal textbook because the industry hasn’t screwed you out of enough of your money yet), they always feel good. Not as good as smaller hardcover books, but still pretty decent.

The pages, on the other hand, don’t feel so great. Since textbooks use a different type of paper than novels, the pages tend to feel more smooth and plastic-like. The different type of paper also makes it so textbooks don’t smell too good either. They just don’t. On a good day, they might smell like nothing at all, but in my experience, they usually just smell…bad.

Though, of course, it could just be the putrid stench of an evil, money-grubbing industry taking advantage of financially vulnerable students looking to get an education by forcing them to purchase a $200+ textbook that they’ll barely use in their course and will probably try to return at the end of the semester for a fraction of what they originally paid for it because a new edition of the textbook magically appeared out of nowhere and became the new course standard despite adding very little (if anything) to the edition before it.

That’s just a guess, though.


Type of Book Format: Workbook

A textbook, but thinner and usually paperback, consisting of learning exercises. Common in elementary and middle school classrooms (at least when I was in school).

open workbook of business statistics

Cover Feel: 1/5

Page Feel: 2/5

Smell: 3/5

Sound: 3/5

Okay, I know I’m kind of reaching at this point, but a workbook still counts, even if it isn’t entirely something you read so much as, you know, work in, and it’s not exactly the most entertaining thing in the world.

Workbooks are typically paperback, and by now you probably already know how I feel about those. The fact that it’s a workbook just lowers its score more because at least with a narrative paperback book, you can look forward to opening the cover and having something potentially interesting to read instead of a shit ton of math problems to work on or short answer responses to write.

I will say that the smell is pretty decent, and the sound it makes when you turn the page is also solid, though I might just be thinking about the feeling of relief when I finally finish all the problems on a page and can finally move on to the next one.

Overall, workbooks are the definition of mediocre, to the point where their inclusion in this list is pretty questionable. Sue me.


Type of Book Format: eBook

Online, downloadable books you can read on your phone or e-reader.

eBook on a table next to a cat mug of tea and a plate of doughnuts

Cover Feel: 1/5

Page Feel: 1/5

Smell: 1/5

Sound: 1/5


‘Nuff said.

Note: I like eBooks. Don’t hurt me.


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By The Angry Noodle

Bryanna Gary is the founder of The Angry Noodle. She is very smol and noodly, and also dipped in pasta sauce.

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