How cool is this idea?
Yep. Soon to be installed at Canary Wharf tube station in London, commuters can choose from a selection of one, three or five minute stories across a range of genres.
Pros: More people reading stuff. It’s good for the soul, you know?
Cons: LITTER! (and if you look at the number of free newspapers left on floors and seat across the Underground network, you’ll know what I mean).
Also in that story, this line, featuring one of the best words ever invented:
The idea of selling books from a machine is not new; in 1937, Penguin founder Allen Lane installed a “Penguincubator” on Charing Cross Road, a slot-machine book-dispenser that biographer Jeremy Lewis wrote: “shocked his more conservative colleagues”.
Sadly, it only sold books. ‘Sadly’ because if there was anything that 1937 London could have really done with more of, it would surely have been penguins. Well, penguins and an absence of impending global conflict.
But it seems that book vending machines go back over a century even before Lane’s Charing Cross effort.
The first book-dispensing vending machine was built by Richard Carlile in England in 1822. Carlile was a bookseller who wanted to sell seditious works like Paine’s Age of Reason without being thrown in jail.
However, it would seem that this was no automated process. Carlile or some other individual was likely sitting in the back of the machine and handing the books out through a slot at the bottom as the money came through a slot at the top.
The machines at Canary Wharf won’t have people inside them. Technology has really moved on in the last 197 years. The short stories will be free and won’t actually be books – rather just sheets of paper.
They’re already in use across France, the US and Hong Kong, but not in South Africa, where the dual challenges of eleven official languages and rampant theft would mean that the stories would be difficult to share, and the machines only temporary at best.