Which parts of a book, or steps in the manufacturing of books, could be non-vegetarian or non-vegan?

A leather cover would be an obvious example. I also read that animal glue gets used. Anything else? Ink? Paper treatment?

  • 2
    Are you interested in new books, or also used? (for example, animal glue may have been used historically but be less common in books published after [some year])
    – Erica
    Oct 22 '17 at 15:47
  • I understand the question but to be honest I am trying very very hard to convert to ebooks. You can read ebooks (and pdf) on most smartphones and ereaders are available for cheap. There are even ebook public libs - overdrive.com . IMO ebooks are more environmentally friendly but probable someone will disagree or ebook may not be the answer you were looking for.
    – Panther
    Oct 22 '17 at 18:34
  • @Erica: I thought to make this question about the manufacturing of new books. The goal is to learn what could happen in the manufacturing, even if it’s not common anymore (as long as it does still happen). If there are methods that no longer get used, I think it could still be relevant to mention them, e.g., to remove doubts that the answer couldn’t be complete in case someone reads about a certain method somewhere else. -- Based on answers given here, I thought to ask follow-up questions if/how it could be identified whether a certain book made use of a specific animal by-product.
    – unor
    Oct 22 '17 at 18:45
  • @Panther: I mostly use ebooks, but physical books still (and likely will) get produced, so this question really should be about how physical books can get produced in a veg* way, not about alternatives to physical books. Where I’m coming from: I want to help someone who creates a book, who hadn’t thought about the issue with using animal by-products yet, is now interested in making it veg*, but has no knowledge/experience.
    – unor
    Oct 22 '17 at 18:48

Only in rare cases will you find a book that contains any animal components. Things you might encounter would be leather and vellum in bindings, and extremely rare gimmic inks.

Vellum is prepared animal skin, it has been used instead of paper and was until recently used to record British laws.

If you buy an old book, it's possible though highly unlikely that its pages or binding would be made from vellum. Vellum bindings were common on European books up to the end of the eighteenth century. Books with vellum pages would likely be older and rarer still than vellum bound books.

Vellum is still used today, though rarely, for book-binding in expensive books.

Paper vellum, however is not of animal origin, it is a vellum replacement, made from cotton.

Squid ink has been very rarely used instead of more usual mineral ink. Normally black ink is simply made from carbon black, a pigment derived from coal and oil with other chemicals to keep it stable and liquid.


My father was a bookbinder. In the western world and with mass production, nowadays apart from a leather cover on specialty books or maybe a leather bookmark on premium books, there are no animal products used in book making.

About the only thing where it could be used is the glue holding the cover to the pages and modern techniques use a hot-melt glue process...just like your hot glue gun.

Even on small runs, PVA is the preferred glue for bookbinding nowadays.

If you were buying a hand made book from India or somewhere like that it might be a different story.

  • Somewhere like what? Why single out India here?
    – Zanna
    Dec 13 '17 at 10:12
  • Somewhere like a place that tends to make things with resources on hand. Have you been to India? You would know what I mean.
    – Steve
    Dec 13 '17 at 11:26
  • 1
    Yeah I have. I don't know why you don't say something descriptive in your answer instead. It sounds pretty negative the way it is.
    – Zanna
    Dec 13 '17 at 11:36

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