In the fourth instalment of "Blind Date with a Book", online bookstore PaperCut Books are once again sending out pre-packed book bundles. The catch is those who place orders will not know what titles await them until unpacking their delivery.
"When you read and buy a lot of books, it [can get] boring eventually. We love surprises and books as gifts, and that's where 'Blind Dates with a Book' comes in," says Tahmina Habib, founder of PaperCut Books, who launched the initiative with her partner Sheikh Abdullah Aal Mamun in 2019.
Each time PaperCut receives a new shipment, they set aside 10-20 of the new "local copies" for the blind date series. They make sure not to promote those titles online. The books are packed with a free custom-made bookmark; the deliberately chosen plain brown packaging offers minimal hints.
Customers, however, get to pick from a selection of genres, spanning poetry, graphic novels, contemporary nonfiction and others. To further cater to their areas of interest, phrases such as "festive short stories" and "about people who disappear in search of a better life" are mentioned. Each package costs between Tk 200-400.
Extra precautions, including two layers of packaging, have made preparing for the series more time-consuming during the pandemic, but response from customers is still staggering.
"It was a big risk, because people might already have some of the books in their collection. But once the reviews hit, we sold out most of the packages in a day and even had to turn down a few customers. It was heart-warming to see all our books sell out without us mentioning authors or titles," Tahmina says.
Amrina Ahmed, who recently bought one of the blind date packages, points out, "We often buy books based on the title or cover, but when it's covered up this way, we can't make that judgment."
"I was particularly satisfied with the book I received and its quality. It was one I hadn't heard of before," adds Rafid Saleh, another customer.
Based on reviews, the initiative seems to be bringing back elements of the reading experience that are often diluted amidst the media hype surrounding books—like the whimsy and adventure of approaching a book with a fresh mind, discovering books that one otherwise might not have tried, and reading for reading's sake only.
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