A strange new spin on the vending machine has cropped up in the city of Grenoble: instead of dispensing soda and snacks, these sleek orange and black machines print out free short stories. Conceived of by publishing company Short Édition, the invention aims to get people to kill time by reading fiction instead of constantly checking their phones.
Short Édition co-founder Christophe Sibieude came up with the idea while standing in front of typical vending machine with his colleagues. “We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments,” Sibieude told Agence-France Presse. Short Édition actually specializes in content optimized for mobile screens, but with these machines, they’re offering a clever, futuristic approach to promulgating print media in the digital age.
Each dispenser has buttons for 1-minute, 3-minute, and 5-minute stories, all of which are free and written by members of the Short Édition community. Printed on scrolls of receipt paper, they can fold up and go easily into your wallet or pocket. In a pilot program funded by Grenoble, the machines are being installed in eight public places around the city, including libraries, city hall, and the tourism office.
This is only the latest in a series of city-funded initiatives around the world to get people in public spaces to read print more. The Toronto Public Library is installing lending kiosks in the city’s public transportation hub. In Cluj-Napopca, Romania, a literacy initiative called Travel By Book offers free bus and train rides to commuters reading books in print. Boston’s Bibliocycle and Storymobile roll through the city offering free books to passersby. Short Édition’s original technology and focus on dispensing stories short enough for sapped attention spans cater especially to the internet generation.
After the pilot program, Short Édition hopes to spread the machines worldwide. “Anyone who wants to place short story dispensers in their shops, malls or waiting areas are welcome to get in touch with us,” Sibieude said.
And the next logical step in this game? An attempt to replicate Roald Dahl’s Great Automatic Grammatizator, a mammoth machine that writes and prints prize-winning novels in roughly 15 minutes.