Used Book Vending Machine: Random Awesomeness at $2 a Pop

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Go into The Monkey’s Paw used bookstore in Toronto and you’ll see this vending machine that dispenses books for $2.

Owner Stephen Fowler came up with the idea on a fishing trip with a friend. Originally, he thought an actual person would sit inside the box. But his pal convinced him he needed an actual working vending machine, and then built it for him.

Fowler told the magazine Quill & Quire that, “…[o]f the people who have used the thing so far, almost every person has been pleasantly surprised and completely amused. I can think of two people who were dissatisfied with the book they got, but I can only assume they were people lacking in imagination and enthusiasm. In fact, this is something I’ve observed in the used-book trade: people are always looking for meaning. They’ll get a book and feel as though it was psychically selected for them.”

Fowler said the machine forgoes profit, but fits the business model of used book stores. “…[T]he nature of the second-hand book business is that I end up with a lot of books that are interesting and worth keeping and disseminating, but have no practical retail value. Historically in the used books trade there has always been the dollar cart in front of the store. This is just a spin on that.”

His bookstore isn’t necessarily for readers, says Fowler. It’s a place to find “printed culture” and “printed artifacts with text.”

To emphasize his point, the store keeps a blog where it posts a sampling of their ever-changing window displays. But, you cannot buy any of the books online. Only in the store. Road trip!

“Bibliographic recursion: a printed and bound paper artifact that describes the technology of printing and binding paper artifacts.”


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