I’m always on the look-out for bookshops with a difference. There are the cafe bookshops. More recently the one-book bookshop in Tokyo. However, these still have books and their covers clearly visible on a shelf.

Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Australia is turning the way we often choose our books on its head by wrapping up the books. Instead of ‘judging books by their cover’ the bookshop feels its policy allows the book to be bought for its contents and also encourages a diversity of reading genres by hiding the book covers. Neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, the book parcels line shelf upon shelf in one section of the second-hand bookshop. Upon each book is written a few key words about the book – its genre, main plot line. That is all. The rest is pot luck.

An employee originally had the idea to have a ‘blind date with a book’ and sales have mushroomed and the concept has been rolled out to all its six stores across Australia. The books are chosen by staff  who also write on the covers. The customers often buy the books as presents for family and friends for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays or Valentines. One major selling point is the ease and lack of stress in choosing a book as well as the sense of anticipation and intrigue of the ‘secret’ book held within. 

I can just imagine the anguish felt by the publishers and authors. After hours of deliberation and huge expense their work upon cover design and blurb content is hidden by nondescript paper. However at the same time my interest is definitely piqued and I would happily embrace the ‘blind date’ books now and then. Especially since the books can be returned within seven days if they have already been read – the only main drawback I could envisage. 

What about you? Have you ever come across this scenario in a bookshop near you? Would you buy such a book as a present? Or for yourself? As always I look forward to reading your comments.



128 thoughts on “BLIND DATE BOOKS

    1. I know, it can be rather overwhelming when faced with so many books – this definitely helps in the bombardment of book covers, blurbs etc! It is good that they are placed in genres though otherwise the surprise might not be so relevant to ones interest! Many thanks for your comment. 😀

  1. I absolutely love this idea and if I saw it in a bookshop, I’d take a chance on a “blind date.” This isn’t the same thing, but with one of my former boyfriends, we would go on dates to our favorite indy bookstore, where we would separate and each pick out a book for the other person. It had to be something off-the-beaten path, like a small press offering, nothing off the best seller list. I have to say, these were the best dates. He always picked something that was perfect for me and that I had not previously known about. I think I did well for my part too! We would then give each other the new book over coffee or dinner.

    1. Karen, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I just love the unusual book-shopping swap you describe – how inventive and interesting both in picking a book out of the ordinary for each other and then seeing what you will receive. Lovely dates and I can see why you recall them with fondness. The ‘blind date’ books take this one step further with even the buyer unaware of the actual book…

  2. This is a refreshing idea. I’m one of those people who always say they don’t judge a book by its cover…but do it anyway. I love the idea of judging it by its content – the way it’s supposed to be!

    1. Oh, I’m just the same! 😀 If a cover is dreadful I won’t even pick up a book – this does throw all those preconceptions out of the equation! A great idea which I hope takes off!

    1. Luckily I think the genre is hinted at with the few words on the cover – if your friends are buying as a present just make sure they know your book taste! Thanks for your comment. 😀

  3. Reblogged this on Unmeasured Journeys and commented:
    When stores have “Grab bags”, are you ever so curious about what is inside the bag, that you buy one?

    My blogging friend, Annika, found the coolest book shop that has a similar idea, except but it is done with books. I LOVE that! It’s sort of like that singing show on tv, called “The Voice”.

    Only instead of choosing singers by voice alone, books can be chosen by a few words alone. Now THAT is an amazing concept!

    Thank you for letting me share, Annika. This has given me ideas for other things as well. Like, wouldn’t it be neat to buy a few of those books for Christmas or birthday gifts and let family or friends pick the one that sparks their interest?

    How fun!


    1. Jessica, thank you so much for the reblog and lovely comment. I’ve watched a bit of The
      Voice and yes, you’re dot on – same principle but with books. I just love the mystery of the gift – either if bought for oneself or for others as present! I can imagine spending ages in the shop trying to decipher the books beneath the covers!

      1. Hey girl. I didn’t know you were back. How was your trip? Oh, yes! I’d be in the book shop for hours reading all those paper covers as well. 🙂 And, you are very welcome. Thank YOU so much for letting me share!

        1. Oh, I’m not back yet! We’re are just taking a short holiday within the holiday and staying a few days out in the islands visiting friends and family; then a ten days or so off the grid again. The hotel has wifi – so great to catch up here and also my son is ‘chatting’ away with his friends back in the UK! Thank you so much for your lovely recommendations on your blog – I’m very touched,

  4. Very clever. If I got a horror or something scary, I’d pee my pants. 🙂 But maybe I’d get a memoir. 🙂 I actually love this idea! Mind if I reblog?

    1. Jessica, you have me giggling! I think the cover of the book gives the general genre so hopefully no frightening surprises! Of course you can reblog – thank you so much!!😃😀

        1. To give a slight hint there are a few words written with felttip on the brown paper wrapping – just to avoid these dilemmas! 😀 You can probably see the writing in the photo.

  5. If you are in the UK or Europe we also Sell Blind Date Books online! Each one of our books comes with a Teabag or Coffeebag and also a letter explaining the concept. They are all wrapped slightly differently too but keeping in with our theme.

    1. Thank you so much for introducing yourselves and I am very excited about your online take on this concept! Also a different touch with the Tea/Coffeebag attached. Best of luck with your business – hope it goes well.

  6. At our school we used to have “brown bag lunch auctions,” for a fundraiser. Each person bringing a bag and then we would take bids on our bag by describing the contents. The money went to a Christmas fund, which meant we chose families in need to receive gifts. I remember one of my friends made a lobster salad on croissant roll, baked a cream cheese frosted brownie, etc. She managed to get the highest bid from our superintendent of $25 to go to the cause! 🙂
    These are like brown bag books, but better since they last, Annika. Old books had few details on their covers anyway. 🙂

    1. Robin, what a terrific idea for a fundraiser! I can just try and imagine all the wonderful descriptions of the hidden lunches and from the examples you give I’m already raising hand and bidding!😀😃 This fundraising concept would be a great success in all schools and charity auctions. Thank you so much for your interesting comment!

  7. What a fascinating idea!

    I actually like that books are the one thing that even professionals don’t really know how to sell. Take away the cover and blurb, and they STILL sell. Love it. 🙂

    1. It’s fascinating what new ideas people come up with – I reckon at the start the shop wasn’t at all sure if this would be popular or not! It probably helps if you are a regular to the store and know the salespeople and quality of books already for sale. For a one off present or treat for myself I’d be tempted but understand people’s hesitation too.

    1. Yeah!! Charley you’re the first one here who has actually seen this idea in action – lovely to read your comment and that it is positive experience. Thank you so much for letting us know.

      1. It’s a good idea and its practical too actually for shops to get rid of stock. It’s also a great way of reading things you wouldn’t normally pick. I got a couple of work colleagues one of these each for Christmas. X

        1. I meant to ask what was the reaction from your colleagues? Did they like the books? Was the description accurate? Were you pleased with the purchases? I’d love to know!

          1. They were very intrigued indeed and loved the idea. It’s always a bit of a risk because you never know what’s inside but they were happy yes. It gave them something to read, that they wouldn’t have picked to themselves.

            1. That’s great, Charley. Thank you so much for the feedback – very interesting. What you say is what I would expect but you never know. I’ll be checking out second hand bookshops and seeing if anyone has adopted this near to where I live!

  8. Hi Annika! What a fascinating and unique idea, I’ve never heard of it! I love the way the books look in the photograph. I’m intrigued and think what a great idea for a gift. I’m weird in that I don’t pay much attention to the cover at all, but I always read the back blurb first, so not sure if I would buy a book this way all the time, but I can see how the concept being so unusual has taken off. I’ve learnt something today thanks to you, love it when that happens! I wanted to visit you before I disappear. Big hugs 🙂 xx

    1. Sherri, it is a wonderfully unusual concept – quite daring and I can imagine the initial scepticism that the idea must have attracted. The element of intrigue and surprise draws people towards the books I imagine and then if the writing is done well and effectively on the covers this should result in sales. Perfect for the odd purchase or gift! Blogs are great at sharing new ideas, news and so glad you enjoyed the post. Wishing you a wonderful summer and hope the sun comes out soon!!😀😀😀

    1. You’re right, Pamela, the key to the success of this concept is the writing on the brown cover. It has to draw people into browsing and finally to choosing the book. Too boring, non-descript and it all would fail!

      1. Which means the bookstore needed to hire really good writers/salesclerks. Reminds me of a boutique clothing catalogue I once received in the mail (years ago). It did not include pictures of the clothes; instead, it described them like a story (for instance, the wearer was off to a blind date and needed just the right belt to offset a pleated red skirt). So much fun to read.

  9. I have never come across this…an interesting idea…particularly suited to secondhand where judging by wear of cover could be a drawback. It might entice me… I’d have to have a browse 🙂

    1. On first hearing about the idea I assumed it was about new books but it seems to be about second hand books and you’ve got a good point that it hides the wear of the cover. However, at the same time, I would be disappointed if the cover was too tatty and worn…a fine line and I think the shop assistants will have to choose carefully. It would be fun to browse though and to read the comments on the book – trying to guess the title or author!

  10. A creative and intriguing idea. I rather like it – the ultimate equalizer that creates a uniform sense of mystery about each book that can only be discovered by opening it up….

    1. Carol, that is very true and I think it is this sense of mystery that draws so many to this idea. Nearly everyone loves a surprise present…I had to smile at the thought of the reaction of the publishers though!

    1. Miriam, I was wondering if you had heard of this – being down your part of the world. Obviously the bookshops are located in the bigger cities. I know…somehow the perfect date! No stress, entanglements, emotional turmoil…well apart from the story of course!

  11. That is such an interesting concept. I have never heard of it before, but I do find it intriguing. I think I would try a blind date with a book for sure. I love a nice cover, but that doesn’t guarantee good content. I also think this would be a great idea for a library used book sale. Also, what a neat little book shop. We only have chain stores in my town 😦

    1. There seems to be have been such a positive response to this idea I have no idea why it hasn’t been taken up by more bookshops! As you say libraries might love this idea for their used books and it is going to be suggested by a fellow blogger to her local library. I know, isn’t it great to have such a large independent bookshop! There used to be a couple of brilliant local bookshops in the towns nearby but they all closed and now I have to go to the city to the main chain store ones. Never the same…sigh…

  12. That’s such an amazing idea! I’ve actually always hated the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, that’s what the cover is for! Someone spent hours of their life carefully making sure it gave you an accurate representation of the contents!
    I can get into a bit of a rut with what I read though and sometimes nonsensical things will put me off (high heels on a cover make me weirdly uneasy?) so I love the idea this would lead me to a few books I would otherwise have rejected 🙂

    1. I must hold up my hands and admit that the idea for this post was given to me by my son. Knowing how I’m always on the look out for something different he’d heard about this on youtube and I thought it was just perfect for a post. You’re so right that covers are exactly there for one reason – for you to judge a book! It’s that instant reaction…still I’ve fallen for this idea for one-off occasions in the hope it will introduce something new, something I wouldn’t have considered before. As for heels! I’m with you on this one for book covers, they just give me the shivers! Also I nearly scream when I see yet another back of a lone woman looking into the distance cover – so over-used. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. 😀

  13. Interesting idea, Annika. Covers have never caught my attention as much as the blurb on the back. I’d go for it. In fact I’ll pass the idea on to Peggy, who oversees a used book store that benefits the local library. –Curt

    1. Curt, I’m thrilled that you’re passing this idea on to Peggy – please let me know if the book store uses the Blind Date books and how it goes. I must admit I’m a sucker for a good cover as well as checking the blurb so this would be good to get me out of my comfort zone! Also I love surprises!

  14. Anonymous

    I think this is a great idea and would certainly like to try it as unfortunately I am easily swayed by the cover of a book – sometimes to my detriment.I think they would make great gifts too as they are already wrapped!

    A lovely quirky and fun post.


    1. Haha! The already wrapped present is ideal, isn’t it?! Especially if sellotape is not your forte!😀 As I’m wrapping paper & tape demon I would imagine I’d add an additional layer of pretty paper… Glad you liked the post, Mike.

  15. What an interesting concept! I think it would be fun to give it a try. Not many book stores in our neck of the woods (Central Maine). A Books A Million in Bangor (city) and little shops in towns within 20 miles of us. I do love dropping into the small local shops in coastal towns and usually pick up a book or two by a local author. I’ve found a few treasures. Happy reading, Annika! 🙂

    1. Bette, I love local bookshops and your visits to yours sound delightful. How wonderful that local writers are on display and that you discover such gems whilst out and about. Unfortunately all our local bookshops have closed – they were a real treat to visit and always stocked books out of the mainstream and I would come away ladened. I love the name of Books A Million; with such a grand name you just have to explore further. Happy Reading to you too, Bette – it is a real solace and joy in life.😀

  16. Theirs a bookstore on Magazine street in New Orleans where I go to every time I go home. It’s 3 stories in an old building with as many old titles as new ones. I would definitely buy a covered book there as I know most everything they sell would be a good read. Plus the gentlemen who own the store would let me change it out if I wanted… but I’d have to read it first.

    1. JC, your description of the New Orleans bookshop has me drooling…what a dream. The kind of place I’d lose myself in for hours and leave with a pile of books on my arms. You rise a fair point, it’s good to know the people who would be writing on the brown paper covers, to ensure the choices would be great. Also I had to laugh at your final sentence – that had occurred to me. 😀

      1. On the third floor where only a few people venture there are these huge sofa’s so you can basicaly stay there all day and no one would find you. If you need coffee, Cafe Du Monde is about a block away, take it to go and find your couch and happy reading.

  17. PeterR

    What a brilliant idea. Not so much “thinking outside the box” as “thinking beyond the cover”. Having bought a few books that sounded (and looked) good, only to be disappointed, I’d certainly give this a try. Who knows, maybe your blog will inspire someone to try it.

    1. I like that, Peter – thinking beyond the cover! Exactly what they’re trying to do and with some success. Quite a few times I have bought a book because of the cover (and blurb) and been disappointed; I’m willing to try a surprise book. Regarding your last comment I’m thrilled that at least two bloggers are considering ways which to take this idea further!!😀

  18. I would totally be up for reading a blind date book. In fact, that’s sort of how I read. I like to know just enough about a book to to pique my interest. After that, I’m in it for the surprise.

    1. Eve, I’m with you on not wanting to know too much about a book in advance – just enough to be intrigued and wanting to read further. Sometimes I find it a bit tricky to write book reviews because I’m worried about writing too much and putting people off the book in case they feel I’ve spoilt the story! Some film previews are like that – I come away feeling I’ve already watched the movie!

    1. Dinata, your comment has me giggling – how true, the option to just leave it is always there! I’m sure a good book would be better than some dates I’ve been on! 😀

  19. delphini510

    This intriguing idea – all the way from Australia. I like that. Like most of the readers
    I also look at the cover first, if it really puts me off I will not even read the blurb. You can
    of course be fooled.
    I would definately try one and see how it pans out. As the shop is so successful it
    is clear that many of us are “judging a book by its cover”:))

    1. Haha! Mirja I had to laugh at your last comment and so true! 😀😀 At first I thought the whole shop consisted of wrapped up books, not only did I think that would look rather gloomy, I just couldn’t imagine it being very successful. Covers are so important but Blind Date books force us to put that preconception aside for a moment of hopefully positive surprise.

  20. Definitely has novelty value, Annika, and you have to admire them for trying something different. How much I would use it would depend on how engaging I found the snippet on the cover, I guess. I’m not wild about surprises 🙂

    1. I think bookshops are willing to try anything to win more visitors and hopefully buyers. This idea was one that took hold and yes, it’s novelty value is a huge bonus I agree. Reading today I saw four bookshops in America that are going to start serving alcohol – a new twist on the cafe bookshops – in an attempt to increase sales! (I see another post for the future!!)

  21. seems appropriate to have a blind
    cover for such a book!
    but isn’t that kind of cheating?
    i mean, it seems wonderful
    to go out on a blind date
    and experience the thrill
    of uncertainty 🙂

  22. Clever, that. I wonder if it will work? Me, I’m too visual. I read text, but also ‘read’ the images to make decisions. By only getting a few lines of text on a brown paper wrapping, you’re relying on the booksellers skill at summarizing the book. Not good or bad, probably good if you know her and her skills. Hmmm.

    1. It’s definitely someone thinking outside the box and a bit gimmicky but it has been a success for book sales. I imagine it is more for a one off purchase though – but yes, I hadn’t thought about the actual summing up. That is quite tricky and the success of the project could hang in the balance on the writer of the new brown paper covers! Hmm indeed!

  23. This is so cool, Annika. I would definitely go on a blind date with a book. I wouldn’t be able to resist at least one. I’m going to email your like to our librarian in town for the used book sale. What a great idea! 😀 😀

    1. That’s great, Diana! 😀 You’ll have to let me know what they think of the idea. A few years ago there were quite a few independent bookshops in the area and I think they would have loved this idea – alas they have all closed. I love surprises so I’d also try it at least once – I reckon whether you go back depends on the success of that first purchase.

  24. Oh, this is different, but I must admit I do love pretty covers, and I might be disappointed when I open the parcel if the cover is less than perfect!! Nevertheless, I do agree it is the contents of the book – the writing – that really matter. 🙂

    1. I must admit when I first heard of this I imagined a whole bookshop with all its books wrapped up – I had grave reservations about that image. However, since only one smaller section seems to be involved there are still lots of book covers on display. Personally I love that feeling of the unknown and the anticipation of revealing a present – that is what appeals to me. However, it would be a one off purchase or as a present. Have you ever seen anything like this in the bookshops in Cambridge?

  25. I’ve never seen this, Annika. I do think it’s a clever idea, as I typically pick up a book based on its cover. That said, I’ll also read the blurb on the back as well as the first page, before purchasing. I would imagine publishers would have issues with this.

    1. Jill, I’m sure publishers do not like this at all!! However as it seems to be on a small scale and encouraging reading it seems an interesting idea. Like you I always read the blurb and first page or so…but I can see myself buying this as a present or just getting one as a treat. It’s like buying yourself a present!

  26. Certainly a different idea but intriguing and something different in a book store. Also the sense of someone having read the books and recommending them is good and of course, in a second-hand store that’s exactly what is happening. Thanks for the eye-opener right when we’re in the midst of cover finalization for my new book.

    1. Elaine, I couldn’t help but laugh at your final sentence! 😀 Not the best post for you to read in the middle of finalising your cover!! To be reassured this seems to be on a small novelty scale and who knows, your book may be the one to be wrapped up one day and sold incognito! Best of luck with the final details.

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