Leather-bound books are wrapped in an animal’s skin, so are obviously not vegan. But what about regular hardback and paperback books?
All books are bound together with glue, an adhesive substance that could be made from various things, including the connective tissues of animals.
So are books vegan? And what should vegans look out for when buying books? This article explains it all.
Are books vegan?
The vast majority of books are vegan. At one time, most books were bound in leather using an adhesive made from animals. Nowadays, almost all books are bound using thick paper or faux leather and man-made bookbinding adhesives which do not contain animal ingredients.
What is animal glue?
Animal glue is an adhesive that is made by boiling the connective tissues (skins, bones and tendons) of animals over a period of time. This process is similar to how gelatine is made.
Is animal glue still used nowadays?
Animal glue is very rarely used in bookbinding. This is because it can be inconsistent, brittle and stain the paper. Modern alternatives include polyvinyl acetate (PVA), methylcellulose and hot melt adhesive (HMA).
Whilst animal glue isn’t generally used to bind books these days, it may be used for some lower-quality publications such as telephone directories or mail-order catalogues.
How to ensure your books are vegan
There’s no easy way to check what glue was used in the binding of a particular book. If you’re concerned about buying books made with animal remains then one good alternative could be to borrow books from the library instead.
Are second-hand books vegan?
There is some debate over whether second-hand items which are made of leather are vegan. Some vegans would say that buying second-hand leather, such as leather shoes, is not vegan. They would argue that if you buy them, then you are preventing a non-vegan from buying them and that person may then go out and buy a brand-new pair of leather shoes.
The case of books is slightly different because it’s generally antique books that are made of leather and animal glue. If you buy an antique book, which causes somebody else to buy a new version, then the new version will be made of more modern components that are not derived from animals.
It’s generally a good idea to donate books to a charity shop once you have read them. That way they can be enjoyed by someone else and you are not having any impact on animals or the environment.