November 20, 2012
Pick a book, any book
by Nick Davies
It can be a thrill to discover a new book by chance — happening upon it on a shelf at a bookstore or library, or at the home of a friend or family member. Picking up books you know nothing about won’t always yield the best results, but it can turn up some hidden gems if you’re lucky. And the Monkey’s Paw bookstore in Toronto has installed a machine to make that experience all the more special.
Designed by Craig Small, the Biblio-Mat machine dispenses a random book for two Canadian dollars. Just pop in some coins, watch the machine rattle into motion, and a book comes out, punctuated with the ring of an old telephone bell. Plus, the Monkey’s Paw is a second-hand shop specializing in antiquarian items, so your chances of getting something unique you’ve never heard of are pretty good.
Store owner Stephen Fowler spoke with the Canadian publishing magazine Quill and Quire, equating the Biblio-Mat to the dollar bin that many used bookstores have, where you’ll find books that are unlikely to generate profit. He explains that the books that go into the machine are ones that are “interesting and worth keeping and disseminating, but have no practical retail value.” Fowler and Small were careful about how to present the machine so that it would fit the Monkey’s Paw aesthetic; it’s intentionally designed to have a vintage look to it, and built from an old metal locker.
Small has posted a great video of the Biblio-Mat on Vimeo if you want to see it in action.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.