Since people can’t visit bookstores to get their regular literary fix, businesses are getting creative with ways to give customers the reading material they crave.

When all nonessential businesses in Boulder, Colorado, were ordered to close, Trident Booksellers and Cafe was faced with a decision: close completely, or find an ingenious solution to stay afloat and satisfy its customers. Rather than throw in the towel, the shop decided to bring books directly to its customers via bicycle delivery.

Bookstore collage

Photo: Andrew Hyde/Trident Booksellers and Cafe

While no one is allowed to enter the shop until the lockdown is lifted, Trident is still taking online orders for “mystery bags” of books, and delivering them to customers’ doors. By early April, they had already sold over 300 bags, proving that people are keen to help their local businesses and enjoy a surprise.

Each bag costs $50, and is packed with four to six used books chosen by staff with input from the customer. Customers might specify their preferred genre, in which case staff will fill the bag with works from that genre. Along with the “mystery bag,” customers will also receive a bag of coffee beans or tea, to really get the full cafe experience that they currently cannot have.

Andrew Hyde, one of the store’s owners, told Atlas Obscura, “About half [of the customers] are Boulder locals and the other half are from around the world […] It’s so much fun to pick great books for people.” For locals, the books are delivered on bicycles by one of the staff members, but for those who live further, the books are sent via UPS for only $5.

And the delivery business seems to be booming.

“We ran out of delivery bags and coffee bags,” Hyde said, “Then we ran out of shipping envelopes three times.”

For some community members placing orders, the contents of the bags aren’t important. It’s all about showing support for Trident.

Boulder resident Mike Gerhard told Atlas Obscura, “I ordered a bag because I’m friends with Andrew [one of the four owners of Trident Booksellers and Cafe] and wanted to support a local business. I want to support as many local businesses as I can through this.”