In some ways explaining what bonded leather is can be the same as describing the difference between ground beef and steak. The material is leather that is "left over" or otherwise not in its original form, pressed together and adhered to other leather via a bonding agent. This type of leather, sometimes referred to as reconstituted leather, is an alternative to what is known as genuine leather, which are whole pieces of animal hide.
Some may confuse bonded leather with artificial leather or synthetic leather, which should not be done. In some cases, a bonded leather product is 100 percent leather. In other cases, such as bonded leather upholstery, there could be as little as 17 percent leather in the product. Those looking at bonded leather should understand this is an option that does include real leather. Some may appreciate that fact, while others may not.
The difference between bonded leather and genuine leather, in terms of quality and looks, can be hard to see. If it is done properly, the grains and textures of bonded leather should look very close to that of genuine leather. In some cases, the only different may be that the texture of the bonded leather may not be quite as pronounced as that of natural-grained genuine leather. The function, smell, and overall appearance remains much the same, however.
The other major difference with bonded leather is in the cost. It is often available at a substantial discount over genuine leather. This is because the leather scraps, or leather fibers, would have no other value, or very little value, if not made into a bonded form. Therefore, it is still considered a good deal for the manufacturer to sell it at a reduced cost.
One of the most common applications for bonded leather is in the covers for books, especially Bibles. The leather for Bibles can be bonded and still very easily create the desired look and feel. While full disclosure often means the words "bonded leather" appear somewhere on the cover, it would otherwise be hard to tell the difference. It has become such a product of choice for Bibles that finding them in genuine leather is becoming more difficult.
As with all types of leather, the material remains very durable, able to withstand a number of conditions, including heat and moisture. This is a hallmark of leather and why it is used in applications such as Bibles, shoes, belts, and even sports balls. In the end, the choice will usually come down to a personal preference.