Sometimes you just have to wait. Take a number, they say, and take a seat. But instead of staring at your phone or scrolling through social media, wouldn’t it be nice to have a more cerebral option? Originating in France and now trickling into the United States and a few other countries, the Short Story Dispenser is an automated kiosk that offers free short stories on long strips of paper, like a receipt. You can choose the length of the story according to how long you think you’ll be waiting. They’re typically available as one-, three- or five-minute diversions, and kiosks can be found in places like airports, train stations, cafés, museums, and government buildings.
Any time is story time:
- The machines offer more than 13 million works by 6,800 authors, culled by Short Édition, a French publisher of short-form literature. Authors get royalties when their stories are printed.
- The Short Story Dispenser made its debut at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, and is now available in more than 150 locations. About 20 machines have popped up in the United States; the first was Francis Ford Coppola's Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco.
- The dispensers cost $9,200 USD, plus $190 a month for content and software, but users always get the stories for free. “The idea is to make people happy,” said an executive at Short Édition. “There is too much doom and gloom today.”