Thursday, August 06, 2009

Book-o-Mat?

Scanned from the January issue of Southern Living magazine, page 14Southern Living magazine had an interesting article back in their January issue about the Art-o-mat project, which repurposed 80 old cigarette vending machines to instead dispense original art by some 400 different artists. While looking up a recipe tonight I re-read the article and (since none of the machines are in my area) decided to order an Art-o-Carton to see what they are like and use as little inspirational gifts (and I'll report more on that when my order arrives.)

The UK already has novel vending machines; I saw the one at Heathrow last time I was over there. They're selling all sorts of things in airports these days; Doug Aamoth reports here on all the cool vending machines he saw at the Dallas airport last year (which included a Sony vending machine that dispensed e-Readers.)

If they're not already here, I think it's only a matter of time before we see vending machines for print books in the U.S., too. Practically every hotel I've stayed in has chips, candy, soda, ice cream and even condom vending machines, why not install in the lobby or by the pool a novel vending machine? They'd be great in hospitals (gift shops do sell a limited number of paperbacks, but they're rarely open 24/7.) They'd be wonderful in medical office buildings; I'm tired of reading those old, smudgy magazines in doctor waiting rooms.

It's all about convenience these days, and it would be great to make books more convenient to purchase on demand. As a person who buys at least five books a month from my local grocery store (because I admit, it's more convenient for me to pick them up along with the Cheerios and laundry soap than it is to drive twenty minutes to the nearest book store or wait a week for them to be delivered by an online bookseller) I'd be overjoyed to find some book vending machines in places where I know I'm going to have to wait. Also, having an interesting selection of debut novels available by vending machine might prod me into trying a newly-published author; something I might not do if I have all my old reliable-read authors at hand as I do at the book store.

What do you guys think? Good idea, bad idea, silly?

23 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, I want one! I'm in college and I don't have a car; Hastings is on the other side of town, mind you it's not a big town but still. I would LOVE to be able to buy novels without ever having to leave campus.

    Now I'm sad we don't have them. Such a fantastic idea though, and it would make things so much more convenient. I hadn't heard of this, so thanks for the post!

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  2. I think it would be even cooler if they were some kind of POD machine -- would allow for a broader inventory of titles, and maybe you could specify things like a large-print version. But that might require a lot more room for each individual machine. :/

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  3. I think it's a great idea--and if you want to see vending machines selling all kinds of crazy things, look at Japan. Why not books? My only concern is that the limited selection would mean only the bestsellers end up in the slots, making it harder for the debut novelist to get attention. But that's why I love your idea of a debut novel machine!

    (P.S. I just noticed your thought of the month. I thought of your posts a while back when he made that post.)

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  4. I think it is a great idea! You should see some of the vending machines they have in Japan. I didn't get to see one in person, but on videos I have seen UNDERWEAR vending machines!

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  5. I like the idea. I also like the underwear vending machine. It would have been very convenient the day my clothesline fell down.

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  6. But isn't a Kindle sort of like a book vending machine that is open 24/7?

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  7. The vending machines at Dallas airport are certainly fascinating. It's interesting to see how different approaches to selling things in airports are in different countries. For example, I had a stopover at Amsterdam Schipohl airport a few months ago. They have hardly any vending machines (I have seen a few for drinks, snacks and candies), but the concourse is practically a mall in itself. Not just the old airport standbys, magazines, perfume, liqueur, souvenirs, you could buy pretty much anything there. My favourite was the shop that sold flower bulbs, seeds and other gardening supplies. I loved it so much that I immediately bought some flower bulbs as a gift for a gardening relative.

    As for novel vending machines, I think that's a great idea. I think category romances would be a particularly good fit for such a machine, because they are quick reads, comparatively light and cheap and there is a broad range available. Maybe one could mix in some Destroyer/Executioner type books and some series westerns, for those who absolutely don't want to be caught with a romance.

    And if they someday manage to perfect that Espresso POD machine, which is apparently in development, that would be an even better fit, because pretty much every title out there could be made available. Maybe it could even include an ebook download terminal for those who prefer to read electronically, as the Amazon Kindle instant download connection doesn't work outside the US.

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  8. Amanda wrote: Oh my gosh, I want one! I'm in college and I don't have a car; Hastings is on the other side of town, mind you it's not a big town but still. I would LOVE to be able to buy novels without ever having to leave campus.

    I hadn't thought of schools, Amanda, great idea. Young people (especially away at university) are often limited with how much running around and shopping they can do. Would be great to have one in every dorm. :)

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  9. Meleeta9:15 AM

    I live in a small town and a very small county. We don't even have a grocery store in the county that sells books so a book vending machine would be awesome. Then you wouldn't have to travel out of the county just to get something to read....

    Of course since I am moving to another state at the end of the month I might not have to anymore...But still a great idea. It would be great at state and national park services to.

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  10. Kristin wrote: My only concern is that the limited selection would mean only the bestsellers end up in the slots, making it harder for the debut novelist to get attention. But that's why I love your idea of a debut novel machine!

    I have to agree with you there. If publishers owned the machines, I doubt we'd ever see any new authors; they'd stock them only with big names/bestsellers. But I think an indy bookseller or even one of the e-publishers who put out print editions would be more inclined to stock them with more interesting selections.


    (P.S. I just noticed your thought of the month. I thought of your posts a while back when he made that post.)

    Yeah, I did, too. Ha.

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  11. heyoka wrote: I think it would be even cooler if they were some kind of POD machine -- would allow for a broader inventory of titles, and maybe you could specify things like a large-print version. But that might require a lot more room for each individual machine.

    I just looked at the on-demand machine that does that, and it looks to be about the size of a commercial printer, so I don't think size would be an issue. I'd love to see a machine like that installed in every public library and school.

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  12. lissalb8 wrote: I didn't get to see one in person, but on videos I have seen UNDERWEAR vending machines!

    Now there's something I've never considered I'd have to buy in a hurry (but then I lead a fairly dull and boring life.)

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  13. Darlene wrote: It would have been very convenient the day my clothesline fell down.

    There's a story I'd love to read. :)

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  14. Margaret wrote: But isn't a Kindle sort of like a book vending machine that is open 24/7?

    For people who are comfortable with Kindle and the other e-Readers out there, definitely. I was just a little surprised to read that Amazon had secretly stolen some of the content they sold to Kindle users; I don't know that I want to own a device that comes with (excuse the pun) a built-in Big Brother button.

    I wouldn't mind seeing an e-book vending machine, though. I like to back up my e-books on disc, and if there was a vending machine that sold them on CDs I'd definitely give one a try.

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  15. Cora wrote: And if they someday manage to perfect that Espresso POD machine, which is apparently in development, that would be an even better fit, because pretty much every title out there could be made available. Maybe it could even include an ebook download terminal for those who prefer to read electronically, as the Amazon Kindle instant download connection doesn't work outside the US.

    Blending the best of both formats in one machine would be fantastic, especially for vending machines for readers in places outside the U.S. Great idea, Cora (and I agree with you on selection, too -- there should be a variety of genres stocked to offer something for everyone.)

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  16. Agreed with pretty much everyone: it'd be great, and debut authors, please. We can buy the bestsellers anywhere; they don't need another venue. Also agree that e-readers aren't for everyone. :)

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  17. New Yorkers can find shoes in vending machines.

    I guess I don't mind this as an airport tool, some things add to the airport experience. But I wouldn't want to see one in the mall, yanno? I'm a tad romantic and love bookstores and actual paper books. (It's not for lack of understanding technology. I just love reading and collecting books and seeing them on my shelves, more than air I think.)

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  18. As long as the selection is decent (I'll second, third or fourth the POD idea, in addition to more well-known titles) and the print and binding are done well, I'd be all for it.

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  19. I like the POD idea. A publisher-owned vending machine seems like it would cut out the bookseller. I'd rather see vending machines support local independent booksellers who might tend to stock the machine with a wider range of titles.

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  20. I think it's a great idea too! Better books than cigarettes. :)

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  21. I'd rather just buy an ebook. :)

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  22. What a neat idea! I love it! Might be a good way to get non-readers interestet in books.

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