I am never one to fully plan ahead for the boredom of my commute. By the time I am out the door, I realize that the best entertainment I have is my iPod and my smartphone. Sure, my music is always somewhat entertaining, but due to my lack of interest in social media, my smartphone does not provide a wealth of excitement. I assume there must be others like me who plan poorly for their commute and, given the option, would like something more substantial to do than checking social media on their smartphone. While nothing exists in America to fill this void, publisher Short Édition thinks they may have filled the void in the French city of Grenoble with their short story vending machines.

Currently, there are eight machines in Grenoble that print out short stories on a till-like receipt—free of charge. Each machine prints stories that are one minute, three minutes or five minutes in length, depending on the choice of the user. While you might not have ever expected to hear the four words shortstoryvending and machine together, the idea is quite a real invention and its name may be one you hear a lot in the near future. In the first two weeks of the machines’ existence in Grenoble, users had printed out more than 10,000 stories.

What makes the machines click so well with commuters? First, Short Édition has ensured that only quality stories are printed by having their online user base of around 142,000 select the 600 best stories for the machines. This involved selection ensures that readers have a cultural experience when reading each piece of literature. Second, the machines always print out a random genre of story, surprising readers with what content they take in, and forcing them to go into each reading with an open mind. Short Édition hopes that the machines’ popularity with commuters helps to promote literary creation not just in Grenoble, but eventually the world.

At this point Short Édition has received requests for the machines from several countries, including Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Chile and Taiwan. I doubt that the machines will have any issue catching on with a range of readers from a variety of nations once they have been received. I know if the machines reach the United States, I will be happy to be immersed in quality literature instead of staring at my smartphone.

Did You Know?

The idea for the vending machines came about when a group of Short Édition employees were huddled around vending machines choosing and eating snacks. It made them think of a bite-size story for a commuter’s brain to snack on.