Short story vending machines offer literary treats

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Grenoble is now a bookworm's paradise, dispensing free literary treats from special vending machines across the city. Whether you're bored at the bus stop or waiting in a queue, the revolutionary 'Short Story Dispenser' offers intellectual breaks to enchant readers with one, three or five minutes to spare.

After first being struck by inspiration from snack vending machines while taking a break from work, the owners of Short Edition, a French startup founded in 2011, are shaking up the book industry with their revolutionary snack-sized literary treats. The delicacies from these dispensers are much healthier than chocolate snacks though, aiming to feed the imagination when there's a dull moment to spare.

Whether you're killing time while waiting at Grenoble train station or have a moment to spare in a hotel lobby before check-in opens, you can now help yourself to gripping free stories. There are 14 of these magical machines installed in Grenoble in such venues and now, they are also located across other cities in France like Paris and even beyond, with 30 dispensers across the United States.

Regardless where you stumble across one, the concept is the same. You select your story — one, three or five minutes — in line with how much time you're looking to pass. Then, at the push of a button, you're whisked away on an invigorating literary adventure via a long printed strip of paper that could easily be mistaken for a store receipt.

It's great news for aspiring writers, with as many as 10,000 short story authors being matched with a community of 150,000 regular readers. The vending machines provide them with a platform, an audience and an appetite that they might not have discovered otherwise.

There's also no damage to the environment as the stories are printed on eco-friendly paper and thanks to their innovative print on demand approach, there is absolutely zero waste. They cost a hefty $9,200, mind you, with an additional $190 monthly fee for content and software. But the founders are well convinced of the value of this new venture.

'The idea is to make people happy. There is too much doom and gloom today'. Kristan Leroy, export director at Short Edition, said in an interview with The New York Times.

It's not only the readers that are made happy by this invention but also the authors themselves. The stories are chosen from writing contests, with each entry carefully evaluated by Short Edition's judges. 'We want to create a platform for independent artists, like the Sundance Institute'.

In the future, these short stories might even get translated, bringing new Asian authors to Europe or America and American authors to Africa or South America, enriching the world via literature.

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