Imagine being at the DMV, but instead of waiting in line with other grumpy people while idly scrolling through your phone, you can read a short story — a nice poem, perhaps. French publisher Short Edition created the Short Story Dispenser as a way for customers waiting in lines at places like airports and train stations to fill their time with something a little more meaningful. All users have to do is push a button labeled 1, 3, or 5 (corresponding to the number of minutes of reading) to get a short story printed for free. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
The machine dispenses readings from Short Edition’s website, which offers more than 13 million works by 6,800 authors selected by readers from the Short Edition community, to classic literary short works from authors such as Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf. Authors also get royalties every time one of their stories is printed, which is a nice bonus. Stories are printed on a “lively papyrus” which, the longer the read, the more it resembles a CVS receipt. It works like a receipt too, using eco-friendly paper and no ink.
The Short Story Dispenser made its debut at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and is now available in more than 150 locations. Most of them are in France, but there’s about 20 machines expanding throughout the US. Francis Ford Coppola is a fan — in addition to being an investor, he has a machine installed at his Café Zoetrope in San Francisco, the first in the US.
Personally, I love it; it’s a simple, nice amenity that offers bite-sized literature in unexpected places where people generally wouldn’t reach for a book, and anything that keeps me from reading Twitter is a good thing.