A short story vending machine? A short story vending machine where the stories are free? Presently there are only eight of these “Distributeurs d’histoires courtes” (“Short-story distributors”) and they are all in Grenoble, France. Last fall prototypes were launched in Grenoble’s libraries, social centers, city hall, and tourism office. Co-founders of the website Short Edition, Christophe Sibieude and Quentin Pleple, came up with the idea for these machines when they were taking a break from work getting a snack from a vending machine in the hallway. The city of Grenoble helped to fund the development of these machines.
These vending machines can be rented for 5oo euros a month, of which authors receive 10%. These machines hold 600 different short stories and though randomly produced almost ticker tape-like, you can select between a one, three, or five minute read. The short stories on the “distributeurs” are the most popular ones selected by the readership of short stories posted on Short Edition’s website.
The popularity of these short story machines in Grenoble is spectacular. There is a chain of European gas stations that is interested and rumor has it, a chain of stores in the United States. Hospitals have expressed interest, as well as amusement parks, airports, train stations, cinemas and museums, even a high school in Tunisia. In this age of the smart phone and the kindle and the nook, it is intriguing (and hopeful) to imagine the reasons for the old-school attraction of these ticker-taped short stories. Yes!