Have you heard of the insanely cool French craze of short story dispensers? If not, don’t stress, because they’re finally coming to the United States and I, personally, am so excited!
These machines, which were created by the company Short Edition, print out original short stories and poems that vary from one-, three-, or five- minute reads. They are adjustable so you can choose just how long you’d like your short story to be.
The first machine was put up in France in 2015. Shortly after, famed director Frances Ford Coppola ordered his very own for his cafe in San Fransisco.
via West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority
Twenty more machines have been installed across the U.S. and four more are due to be placed in libraries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and South Carolina. The dispensers print on eco-friendly paper and do not require ink or cartridges of any sort, so there’s really no downside. The machines were created as a means to boost morale around offices, to keep people occupied while waiting in lines, and to remind passersby of the power within storytelling and creativity.
These machines are re-enlivening the written word in a world that’s been overrun by e-books and Kindles. This way, readers can pocket their stories and read them time and time again, or pass them on and share them with a friend.
Thanks to Short Edition,people are given a chance to take a short break from reality and, briefly, dive into another world. Stories were created as a means to take a breath and escape when life gets too stressful, and these machines are giving us back that escape.
We’re all pretty familiar with the short story vending machinesthat are sprinkled throughout Europe, but now there is a new vendor in town. The Monkey’s Paw in Toronto, Canada is home to the Biblio-Mat, a vending machine that randomly distributes an “old and unusual” book for only $2 CAD (~$1.50 USD).
Image via Vimeo
The Monkey’s Paw is known for and specializes in lesser known and appreciated books spanning the 20th century. The vending machine was created as a kind of alternative to the typical discount or clearance racks and bins often seen outside of bookstores.
Stocked with books that don’t have any practical retail value, but are still interesting and worth distributing, the machine whirrs to life when the coin is inserted, completing the transaction with the ring of an antique telephone bell.
Image via Craig Small
Explaining to Quill & Quire, owner Stephen Fowler originally imagined the Biblio-Mat “as a painted refrigerator box with one of my assistants inside; people would put in a coin and he would drop a book out.” Thanks to a friend of Fowler’s, that version of the machine never made it, but the current version created in 2012 is completely automated.
Adding even more charm to an already charming used bookstore, the Biblio-Mat has become an extension of the store, providing new and otherwise unknown books to customers. One of those customers being The Handmaid’s Taleauthor Margaret Atwood.
Chat story apps have been cropping up by the dozens in the last few years. In case you’ve never used one before, these apps allow users to read stories in the form of a text conversation between characters. The concept is pretty interesting, and if you have a few minutes to read some fast-paced fiction, then check out one of the apps below.
Hooked is the OG chat story app. It offers up stories from several genres including horror, mystery, comedy, sci-fi, and romance. Users can create an account in order to comment and like stories. Paying for a subscription will also give you access to pictures within the stories and allow you to read as much as you want with no time limits, but the stories are still enjoyable even without images and having to wait to continue.
Yarn is very similar to Hooked. It has many of the same genres, but it also has the ability to view videos in addition to images in its stories. Like with Hooked, you have to subscribe in order to get these features and bypass a time limit.
Cliffhanger takes the concept of chat stories a step further. Like a modern-day version of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure stories, Cliffhanger lets users choose the action at regular intervals in the narratives. There are stories from a variety of genres, like with the other apps, and the app also has images and videos which can be unlocked with a subscription. Cliffhanger has a wait time as well, but it is significantly shorter than that of the others and totally worth it for the quality of the content.
Software engineer Kaya Thomas designed an absolutely awesome app called We Read Too. It lets readers easily find children’s books by writers of color featuring characters of color. It’s not always easy to find diverse children’s literature, and Thomas noticed this growing up. We Read Too should help future generations read from a wider array of authors.
The app is sleek, colorful, and easy to browse. It allows users to filter by picture, chapter, middle grade, and young adult books. With over 600 books included, the simple browsing system allows parents, teachers, tutors, guardians, and basically all adults help children find books by writers of color, featuring, hopefully, characters that look a little more like them.
Thomas is an Associate Engineer at Slack Technologies (yes, the site you use to send funny memes to your coworkers), but We Read Too is her passion project. It’s available to everybody for free, and that’s how Thomas wants to keep it. Speaking to Apple, Thomas said, “I wanted We Read Too to be accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they could afford to buy a $1 app. I have no intention of ever charging anyone for access to the information.”
We Read Too gives us a reason to be optimistic, as more young readers will now be able to read books by writers of color. Thomas hopes to partner with libraries in the future. If that pans out, then it will help ensure the information she’s gathered is going to the right people. Pick up We Read Too on the App Store and Google Play today!
If I had a dime for every time I wished I was in a Jane Austen novel, I’d be able to buy a first edition Jane Austen novel. Yes, I am exaggerating, but I do actually wish I was in one of her books. Her prose is so eloquent and her storylines are beautiful. I mean, a heroine that remains true to herself while still capturing the heart of an impassioned guy? I’ll take it.
I understand you can’t take these too seriously, though. Nowadays, we’re pretty far from proper romance (in the Austen sense). Where are the noble acts of love? Where are the longing looks that make a crowded room disappear? Where’s Mr. Darcy? I don’t want to throw my generation under the bus, but romance ain’t like it used to be.
Just recently, Professor John Sutherland from University College London paired up with UK TV channel Drama to prove this. They took some of the most classic romance novel covers from Austen, the Brontës, and Hardy and modernized them to fit today’s standards of romance. These gave me some pain, but see for yourself.
All Images Via The Sun
Well, those are alarmingly realistic. These literary loves are given apps like Tinder, Twitter, and WhatsApp, not to mention a selfie stick and Wi-Fi connections. Daily Star gave us Professor John Sutherland’s insight on the difficult-to-imagine covers. “Inserting these devices and methods of communication in classic romances highlights how much they can interrupt a romantic mood,” Professor Sutherland said. “A Heathcliff that spent his time hash-tagging wouldn’t be identified as the romantic hero we think of today.” According to Daily Star, a poll of British adults think we’re 54% less romantic than in Austen’s time; 34% blame this on our over-reliance and use of technology. Yeah, I’d say so.
I do believe that everyone is more attractive when they aren’t looking at their phone, and that includes the handsome Mr. Darcy. These covers will be able to download this weekend here, but take this as a lesson for the upcoming Valentine’s Day and every day. Be present in the moment and always remember: WWJAD—What Would Jane Austen Do?