The French have developed a new twist on bookselling: Book Vending Machines. They are installed in busy metro stations and on some street corners.
"We have customers who know exactly what they want and come at all hours to get it," said Xavier Chambon, president of Maxi-Livres, a low-cost publisher and book store chain that debuted the vending machines in June. "It’s as if our stores were open 24 hours a day."
Stocked with 25 of Maxi-Livres best-selling titles, the machines cover the gamut of literary genres and tastes. Classics like "The Odyssey" by Homer and Carroll’s "Alice in Wonderland" share the limited shelf space with such practical must-haves as "100 Delicious Couscous" and "Verb Conjugations."
"Our biggest vending machine sellers are ‘The Wok Cookbook’ and a French-English dictionary," said Chambon, who added that poet Charles Baudelaire’s "Les Fleurs du Mal" — "The Flowers of Evil" — also is "very popular."
Regardless of whether they fall into the category of high culture or low, all books cost a modest $2.45.
(Thanks to Bill Rabkin for the tip)
7 thoughts on “Book Vending Machines”
That’s actually not a bad idea and one that could be set up in many places. Bring the books to the people sort of thing.
Sometime about 1968, I bought a copy of THE CHINESE PARROT, a Charlie Chan novel by Earl Derr Biggers, out of a book vending machine in the lobby of an Austin, Texas hotel. I remember there was also a copy of a Nick Carter novel, HANOI, in there, but I didn’t have enough money for it, too. (I was just a kid, so my mother probably wouldn’t have let me buy that dirty Nick Carter book, anyway.) That was the first and last time I ever saw a book vending machine.
Since 2003 there are book vending machines in the Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro metro stations ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3145269.stm). The machines sell Brazilian classic literature, law codes, cookbooks and even Paulo Coelho works, among others.
A German publishing company discovered that strategy a year ago to give their new unknown authors a chance to get noticed. The (literally) cool part: Half of the fillings in the vending machines (put up in Berlin) is still food (I’m using that term loosely), so along with a frozen sandwich also the book you get is frozen. The advantage still being that the book might have a fair chance of still being enjoyable (without the prospect of a visit to the dentist).
Book-vending machines are actually a bit of an old idea. Even in the U.S., they date back at least to the 1950s, and the original Bantam Books (not the same as the current company).
This concept is even older. Penguin had a “Penguincubator” book vending machine at Charing Cross, London in 1937. Unfortunately, they didn’t continue with it.
The book vending machine was invented by an Englishman called Carlsisle in 1882.