Nov. 19, 2012 at 3:06 PM ET
For two dollars, a hand-built vending machine in Toronto will dispense a random used book into your eager hands. It's a new twist on the traditional cheap or free items often found in boxes or carts outside used book stores.
You can find the vending machine at the Monkey's Paw, an second-hand book store on Dundas street. The shop focuses on odd and antique books, but every dealer ends up with a lot of books that for one reason or another just aren't going to fly off the shelves.
Many have them in boxes for a dollar each or sell them in bulk. But Stephen Fowler, proprietor of the Monkey's Paw, had a better idea. He thought a vending machine would be a great feature, although he originally pictured it as a operated by a person concealed inside. His friend Craig Small was more ambitious, however, and actually built a mechanical one out of an old locker; they call it the Biblio-mat.
Fowler described the machine as a success to book news magazine Quill & Quire, although he says he doesn't make any money on the books:
Of the people who have used the thing so far, almost every person has been pleasantly surprised and completely amused. 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.
On the outside, the machine is charmingly retro, resembling an enormous packet of cigarettes. Inside, it is also charmingly retro: A set of pulleys operated electronically, dumping a book from one of three piles into the chute, through which it is, as creator Craig Small puts it, "delivered with a satisfying clunk into the receptacle below."
The Biblio-mat is operational but currently in "beta," says Fowler, perhaps due to the unpredictable nature of a large book falling down a tube. You can watch the machine in action in this video by Small on Vimeo.
via Tucson Weekly
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.