books · Publishing

People are Making Books Out of Jellyfish Now

Image by CarbonNYC via Wikimedia.

I have an irrational fear of jellyfish. Scientifically-minded folks tell me that the real name for my fear is scyphophobia, presumably from the Greek word for squishy monster.* If they ever say anything more about jellyfish, I never hear them over the sound of my screaming.

I had thought that my life was mostly insulated from these tiny (and not so tiny) stinging trash bags.** I work in publishing. I spend my days surrounded by books.

It turns out that nowhere is safe. Jellyfish have found their way inside of the publishing house. Companies are now making books out of them.

Saying the books are made out of jellyfish is, perhaps, melodramatic. The creatures that stalk me from the sea are only tangentially related to the process. However, Paul Shapiro’s book Clean Meat was indeed bound with lab-grown jellyfish collagen. Geltor, the company that created the cover, engineered the cover to be an environmentally friendly alternative to binding books in leather. Despite the cover’s origins, Shapiro told the San Francisco Chronicle that Clean Meat “looks and smells just like a leather-bound book.” Using synthetic jellyfish collagen is a perfect fit for Clean Meat. The book is about the different companies who are working to transform lab-created animal cells into meat. It may someday be the case that the ground bison meat sold in supermarkets never came from a living animal.

Shapiro and Geltor recently sold the first of these jellyfish books on eBay for $12,790. Proceeds from the sale go to the Good Food Institute, which, in a thematically appropriate move, is a nonprofit that promotes cultured meat.

Though fascinating, all of this leaves my lizard brain with a conundrum. I love books but hate jellyfish. Can I stand to hold a book made out of one?

Hopefully, yes. It sounds like the only sting in these books comes from words. I should be safe.


*Actually from the Greek word skyphos, a type of cup or goblet

** Yes, yes. I know jellyfish can be lovely and play vital roles in their ecosystems. Remember: phobia. Irrational.


(The original version of this post was originally published on Book Riot on 2/2/18.)

26 thoughts on “People are Making Books Out of Jellyfish Now

  1. I grew up along the FL panhandle coast. As kids, we use to gather washed up jellyfish (the big, fat, clear ones), cut them into chunks, and have jellyfish fights (hey, snow was rare). I don’t remember them stinging my hands or anywhere else I may have been hit. It’s amazing they’re now ending up in books! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. At times swarms of jellyfish could be found just off the beach. Even avoiding direct contact with them couldn’t prevent being stung by tentacles that had broken off the creatures due to wave action. Those red welts were plentiful and painful, but didn’t deter young idiots (like me) from playing in the surf. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      1. They are not actually using jellyfish, surely? What they are using are lab-grown collagen based on jellyfish cells, so no jellyfish are farmed or harmed in the process… I know what you mean about pigs:). Though I’m surprised how little I miss meat.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. This is quite a piece of information. I still prefer paper though, or a similar substitute that doesn’t cut down forests but smells like paper. I will pass the Jellyfish books, thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hemp is the answer to saving our forests; also, hemp would stop the waste of using corn as ethanol in gasoline. The yield of an acre of hemp compared to an acre of corn (or trees) is tremendous (don’t have the exact numbers on hand), PLUS hemp grows quickly, allowing for two or more havests during a growing season (depending on the location). I’m not talking about the marijuana plant (although I AM for legalizing it for medical purposes); there are strains containing very little THC (sp?). Hemp is a great source of paper, rope, and other commercial uses. It’s our BIG BROTHER GOVERNMENT getting in the way and causing all this unneccessary waste. Just my two-cents! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love jellyfish as long as they are on the other side of the glass (in an aquarium, the underside of a glass bottom boat, or the other side of my television screen). They are beautiful and fascinating and deadly (or at least hurt like hell).

    The idea of eating meat that has never been part of a living animal seems…strange. Kinder, of course. But still unsettling.

    Liked by 1 person

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