Dutch philosopher once wrote “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” For some, words are more important than food. In Grenoble, France, the vending machines dispense short stories instead of snacks. They come in three bite-sizes: the Short Edition vending machine has 1-minute, 3-minute and 5-minute buttons. Christophe Sibieude, the co-founder of Short Edition, explains to AFP:

The idea came to us in front of a vending machine containing chocolate bars and drinks. We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments.

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Content for the machine is produced by the 140,000 users of the Short Édition app, a “community editor,” which invites the public to submit short stories, usually read on a smartphone in all kinds of places:

Short Edition reinvents short literature, closer to the new habits of society. To fight against the small moments of trouble and expectation of everyday life. At work, on the bus or the subway, in the doctor’s waiting room, in the supermarket or in a tree. And even the toilet.

Sibieude credits the idea to the famously green mayor of Grenoble, Éric Piolle, who tells AFP:

We are trying to re-imagine the city centre as a place of shared experiences. We are trying to launch a revolution, and the objective is to build a wider and calmer downtown area.

Piolle is the first Green Party candidate to run a major French city, and he's also known for banning billboards and replacing them with trees. (Unlike the U.S., which is famous for chopping down trees because they block billboards). Given his environmental leanings, it's surprising that he would suggest the distribution of machines that print out stories on environmentally dubious receipt paper instead of letting people read them on their phones, as they can do now. Given that it's really just a printer distributing electronically submitted short stories, it's being perhaps oversold as having "the potential to change how we engage with analog culture in the digital age — bringing the two together rather than replacing one another." But it is a cute idea.

And given that Short Edition markets its short stories as a way of passing time on the toilet, why not print them out on toilet paper and install them in bathrooms instead of the street? Just a thought.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.