Written by Morgan Southworth
In 2015, there were only a few machines in France that produced short stories at the press of a button. Today, there are copies of these machines around the world, with thirty in the United States alone.
The concept is simple: Short Edition, a French publishing company, began creating machines that print short stories you could read on the go. These machines are located in public places like hotels, museums, train stations, etc. A short story—varying from one to three to five minutes in length—is printed from an online database of more than 100,000 submissions chosen from various writing contests and picked by Short Edition’s judges. These stories are printed on a long piece of paper resembling a receipt, and the stories printed are chosen at random. You won’t know what kind of story you have until you read it. The condensed length makes these stories very accessible to non-readers or to those in a rush. Even if the story does not contain a plot or theme you are normally fond of, the stories are easily digestible and will keep you entertained while you wait for the bus or take a quick break before continuing your errands. The next story you print is just as likely to be up your particular genre-loving alley as not, so there’s no reason not to come back for more.
Ideally these short stories will eventually be translated into other languages as well. Machines like this are growing in popularity across Europe, the United States, and even Canada, according to this map tracking Short Edition’s progress—so it only makes sense that the stories themselves should eventually become international too. It’s these little opportunities to read throughout the day that keep the spirit of reading alive and allow us to share stories with each other. Time and again we read books that we wish our friends had also read so we can discuss them in-depth and gush over the lines we love, the parts that make us think. Now your friends don’t have to go out and buy the full book! With these short-story machines, you and another person can share a story in under ten minutes.
As neat as these short-story vending machines are, the world is a big place and these machines aren’t everywhere—yet. There are other ways to generate a bit of reading throughout the day, though. It takes a little extra effort, but if you’re visiting your local bookstore anyway, there’s no reason not to ask about short story or poetry reading events that might be hosted in the store. If the store doesn’t host any, it would then be a good opportunity to enquire about advertising for one instead. There are also many popular collections of short stories you can carry around or download to your phone for short literature on-the-go. The stories are still bite-sized for your fast-paced life, but you get the extra dose of a good plot before you carry on with your day or get back to that essay you’ve been avoiding. Hopefully short-story collections like that can tide you over until these literary vending machines are placed on all your favorite street corners.