Why do old books have that peculiar musty smell? According to the burgeoning science of material degradomics, it is caused by “hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper.” After determining the more culpable VOCs (“using headspace analysis after a 24 h predegradation procedure,” as I’m sure you’d already guessed), it was (one assumes) a relatively simple matter to “quantitatively correlate volatile degradation products with properties important for the preservation of historic paper”.
In other words, they’ve come up with a literal sniff test to figure out which books need preservation.
This probably works a lot better than the Mercantile’s system: We pick a book up, and if any of it is left behind on the table, we know we’ve got an Adopt-A-Book candidate on our hands.
-Norm De Plume