November 11, 2015
French vending machines dispense fiction instead of snacks
by Kait Howard
As our lives become busier and our screen-time perpetual, some have predicted that the short story would become the most readily-consumed literary form of the age.
Now the city of Grenoble, France, has invested in this idea, teaming with the French “community publisher” Short Édition to install short story vending machines in eight public locations, such as the city hall, libraries, and train stations.
As The Atlantic’s Katharine Schwab reported, “The city will soon be home to a handful to devices that dispense short stories rather than sugary snacks or soft drinks.” The slim, orange-and-black machines offer readers the choice of a story that will take one, three, or five minutes to read. The story is drawn from a bank of 600 stories “determined by Short Édition’s subscribers and writers.” Press one of the three buttons, and for free, the machine spits out a story on a strip of paper resembling a receipt.
However, there’s no button for Flannery O’Connor, Lydia Davis, or Amy Hempel—Grenoble users cannot specify a particular author or story. The kiosks distribute stories penned by users of the app, which has 140,000 members. “Short Édition has users of its smartphone app trading short stories that they themselves write and consume,” Rain Noe explained at Core 77.
Legos, socks, cosmetics, and cupcakes: stranger things have dropped from machines (we’ve even seen environmentally-conscious machines proffering books). And while the Short Édition machines provide a creative print alternative to the company’s online offerings (don’t worry, the paper is recycled), short fiction is, of course, readily available via a smartphone. Magazines like One Story and a host of flash fiction sites offer ample options for reading on the fly.
Maybe the short story will indeed play up to expectations.
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.