While few people would describe themselves as bibliophiles, most people like curling up with a good book. While tablets and dedicated eReaders, such as the Kindle and Nook have proven tremendously popular with readers, there is still a percentage that prefer the look and feel of a printed book and would rather spend some time hunting around a bricks and mortar store than browsing an online shopfront. It is these readers at which the Biblio-Mat – a vending machine for dispensing used books – is targeted.
Biblio-Mat is the brainchild of Craig Small, who built the vending machine for his friend Stephen Fowler, owner of Toronto's The Monkey's Paw second-hand bookshop. Fowler originally conceived of a painted refrigerator box housing one of the store's assistants, who would have had to physically hand a used book to anyone willing to pay the asking price. Small, presumably to the delight of the store assistants, suggested automating the whole process, and built Biblio-Mat to prove it could be done.
Using an old metal locker, Small fashioned Biblio-Mat to dispense a book at random every time someone dropped CAD$2 (US$2) in the coin slot. The books are piled up in the back of the machine, with the only human involvement in the process being the restocking of the machine. Biblio-Mat was designed to match the feel of the book shop itself, with a vintage look in terms of colors and lettering.
The $2 asking price means Biblio-Mat isn't a money-making addition to the store. Instead, Fowler sees it as an alternative to the bargain bin most second-hand book shops feature. The customers get to enjoy the novelty value of the machine, but as they have no way of actually selecting a particular book, have to contend with potentially ending up with a book they already own, don't want, or actively dislike. Either way, spending $2 of small change on a book that could potentially entertain and enthrall is a low-cost risk to take.
The video embedded below shows Biblio-Mat in action. It looks to be somewhat akin to Swap-O-Matic, a vending machine that allows for the exchanging of second-hand goods. Both ideas are reminders that even though we live in a throwaway society, one person's junk is another person's treasure. And landfill isn't always the only option.