Book Vending Machines – Yay or Nay?

A few months ago, I read this article on Mashable on how “Singapore now has vending machines that sell books” and I got excited. Not because I have plans of going to Singapore anytime in the near future. It’s simply because the thought of an inventive way of buying/acquiring books excites me. The last time I got this enthused was when I discovered about the Little Free Library.

Now, just in case you have not heard about the book vending machines in Singapore, let me tell you a little something about it. These book vending machines work more or less like the soda/coke vending machines at stores, railway stations, and well, just about anywhere you’d have seen them. The book vending machines store up to 150 books and about 20 to 22 titles at a time. The price for each title is mentioned, so you can purchase the one you want. The only caveat though, is that the purchase has to be by cash. Well, that’s just a small price to pay for a wonderful concept, isn’t it?

My initial excitement aside, I’m not so sure if this would after all be a wonderful concept in a city like Bangalore, where I live. Here are my top three reasons (and these are my reasons only – let me know what you think):

  • Books are being sold practically everywhere – whether it is local literature (which is what the book vending machines in Singapore are trying to promote), English books, or books in any other language, your friendly neighborhood book store or a big brand book store is likely to have it. This means that they are accessible.
  • Books will continue to be sold at a retail price – this is an assumption, and if it is true, then what is the difference between me visiting my regular book store and buying a new book vs buying the same from the vending machine? Except for the interface, of course.
  • It’s still based on the principle of purchasing – unlike the Little Free Library, which is more of a community initiative that rests on the trust people have on others to take a book and replace it with another from their collection.

That’s not to say that book vending machines don’t have a few benefits. They let you save the time that you would otherwise spend at the cashier counter. What’s more, you don’t have too many titles to pick from, in other words, get confused with.

That said, I would totally welcome book vending machines with open arms and my money, if they would do at least two of the below:

Surprise me: I’ll give you the money, but surprise me with a title and make it worth every penny (or rupee, in this case). I’d love the thrill of having a book and not knowing what is in it, and discovering it – that’s an experience in itself.

Give me second hand books: If the books are second hand, and in the same condition as their previous owner left them in (ie., with book marks, old plane tickets, dried flowers intact), I’d be thrilled to have a book vending machine in my neighborhood.

Pocket-sized books: If the book vending machines are not going to surprise me or give me second hand books, then they should at least sell books with unique features. Think, pocket-sized books, like those from Japan.

What are your thoughts on book vending machines? What is that one unique feature that you would like to see in a machine that’s in your neighborhood? Let me know! 🙂

 

Picture credit: The Telegraph (UK)

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