Now serving: Short stories to go

Research has shown that many people snack not because they are hungry but because they are bored. French publisher Short Édition has now invented a healthier alternative: Vending machines that print out short fiction instead of dispensing sweets and soft drinks.

Research has shown that many people snack not because they are hungry but because they are bored. A French publisher has now invented a healthier alternative: Vending machines that dispense short fiction instead of sweets and soft drinks. Short Édition has installed nine printers in the city of Grenoble. The inventors also hope to give people who would otherwise check their smart phones, send SMS or tap through Twitter the gift of a story and to encourage them to start writing.

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The one meter tall printers in black and orange print stories on demand on receipt-like paper. Readers can choose with the push of a button whether they want their stories to be one minute, three minutes or five minutes long. Once the reader has chosen the length, a story is selected at random: The story could be comical, dramatic, serious or mysterious. The stories were written by the community of Short Édition’s authors. Currently, there are around 700 stories available but Short Édition will increase the number over time. The best aspect: The stories are free.

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While the technology is intriguing, what goes on inside a machine remains somewhat of a mystery. It’s our secret sauce, said a spokesperson from Short Édition.

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Short Édition has received support from the city to Grenoble to install the machines, bringing a bit of old-school culture to the fast modern lifestyle. The machines are part of Grenoble’s commitment to culture and literary creation. The idea is so simple and intriguing that Short Édition has received several inquiries from an international audience. It is very well possible that the machines will provide good short stories at airports or other public spaces in the future. Waiting for a plane could become much more fun in a way that’s good for you.