Vignette Books is an online bookstore that offers books exclusively in the “blind date with a book” format: you pick a category, and they pick the book for you. Vignette’s twist: it exclusively offers used and vintage books, typically titles published at least 20 years ago. The company, which based in Austin, Tex., was founded by Jordan Foland, a brand strategist, and Molly Moore, a former bookseller and inventory manager at Book People bookstore.

The company was initially launched through a crowdfunding campaign that raised $5,000 in April 2023, and shipped its first book in June of last year. As of the end of December, Vignette had racked up some 1,200 orders and shipped more than 4,000 books.

Books are offered in nine thematic categories with whimsical names, ranging from the “Hot Girl” and the “Romantic” to the “Dark,” the “Mystical,” and the “Philosopher.” Three books are shipped with each order, and can be a mix of used and vintage.

“So, if you order an edit of three books you might get all vintage, all used, but most often, you’ll get a mix of the two,” Folett said. “Our thinking is if we sourced entirely vintage books, we’d be lacking diverse voices and perspectives, which is important to us that we see represented in our product mix. Also, there are so many contemporary writers and works of both fiction and nonfiction that we love and think deserve more of a widespread readership.”

Stock is stored in and shipped from Moore’s apartment in Austin, which also enables the company to operate popup stores, such as at last year's Texas Book Festival. New gift subscriptions were launched for the holiday season.

Inspiration for Vignette came at a time when Foland was pressured to leave a corporate job and looking for a new direction. “Molly, at the time, was having some success selling vintage items and antiques on eBay,” said Foland. “She was not just selling books, but decor, design items, clothes, etc. I was really impressed, and I told her we should add some branding on top of what she was already doing and see if we couldn’t increase her sales.”

Developing the various categories for the books was among the most challenging aspects of the launch, as it was paramount that the new bookseller would have to stand out on social media, which would be the primary means of marketing the site. Foland and Moore have dubbed their categories as “edits.”

“Once we landed on our final nine edits, we began having conversations about who the readers of each edit are—not just what they read, but what do they watch, listen to, what are their hobbies, how do they see the world?,” Foland said. “We even got as granular as asking ourselves, ‘How do they take their coffee?’ ”

The booksellers are so confident in the precision of their selections for their book buyers that they offer returns—albeit with a caveat. “Our return policy is that if you really, really hate a book we send you, you have to send us a three-paragraph essay about why you hate it so much and let us post it to social media (without any personal identifying details, of course),” Foland explained. “Out of the almost 1,200 orders we’ve sent out, we’ve only gotten three of those essays.”

For the holiday season, Vignette began offering gift subscriptions and, starting this month, the company is experimenting with offering limited edition “edits,” starting with one for food lovers that will include vintage cookbooks and food-related books. “We have so many special books in our library that maybe don’t fit into our existing edits, or aren’t available in the volume we’d need to support a regular edit,” Foland said, “but we think limited drops would be perfect to get those to people.”