World's First Animal-Free Leather-Bound Book on eBay for $10,000

The world's first animal-free leather-bound book for sale, as seen on eBay. The current high bidder says that if he wins, he'll donate the book to a museum. Courtesy of The Good Food Institute

Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money for a book, even one bound in leather. But one particular book selling on eBay, with a reserve of just over that amount, may be just that special. It's the first ever book bound completely in lab-grown leather.

After writing a book on "clean meat,"—or meat made from cell cultures in a laboratory instead of from animals—author Paul Shapiro, the former vice president of policy at the Humane Society of the US, wanted to do something revolutionary to demonstrate that we don't need to slaughter animals for leather products, either. He knew that some companies were developing animal-free leather, and he started a project to bind a book in it. What he made is the world's first book bound in real leather that was never part of a living animal.

Shapiro recalled that one of the first lab-grown burgers (the one that didn't get eaten) was preserved and ended up in a museum of innovative science in the Netherlands. The burger is displayed as a historic marker of an industry that may change the world. To his mind, the world's first lab-grown meat burger ought to be followed with some world's first product made with lab-grown leather. "So I thought 'aha! Why not a leather-bound book!'" he told Newsweek.

"I thought 'There's gotta be some collector who's interested in future technology who wants this on her or his bookshelf,'" he said.

Naturally, Shapiro chose his book "Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals will Revolutionize Dinner and the World"to bind in animal-free leather. Geltor, a company that makes animal-free collagen and gelatin, volunteered to make the leather backing for free.

Collagen is a protein in animals that exists between cells and can be turned into gelatin for the food industry. Leather is mostly made of collagen, so Geltor looked at various types of collagen to decide which one would make leather worthy of a book. They decided on jellyfish collagen, and grew cells for the cover.

Dyed leather pieces dry near the banks of the river Ganges in Kanpur, India, on April 1. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

"We wanted something that would share bovine features but also could do other things that we wanted to explore," Alex Lorestani, CEO of Geltor told Newsweek. Lorestani explained that jellyfish collagen is flexible but firm, like bovine leather, and it can be made in a liquid-like solution to be formed into whatever shape Geltor wants.

This is the first leather item that Geltor has made, and they don't have immediate plans to make more. Geltor focuses primarily on providing collagen and gelatin to companies that make cosmetics and food. However, a company called Modern Meadow is working on developing animal-free leather from yeast.

Shapiro donated the book to The Good Food Institute, a charity dedicated to innovation in the field of animal-free meat. The Institute put the book on eBay, with a starting bid of $10,000. The "buy it now" price is $100,000.

As of January 19, two people had submitted bids.Shapiro said the first bidder, who he spoke with, is primarily interested in supporting the development of clean meat. That bidder, Shapiro said, would donate the book to the Smithsonian Institution or another museum so it would be on display—just like the world's first lab-grown burger.