Books in Vending Machines

Posted on August 22, 2005

It appears that we are one step closer to the alternate reality created by British author Jasper Fforde in his hilarious mystery series starring Tuesday Next, a sort of time cop who enforces the law in a literary-mad society. France has been the first to embrace the idea of books in vending machines. Apparently, the French have gone absolutely mad for anything in a vending machine: from carnations to toilet paper. Now, you can buy books that way.

Readers craving Homer, Baudelaire or Lewis Carroll in the middle of the night can get a quick fix at one of the French capital's five newly installed book vending machines.

"We have customers who know exactly what they want and come at all hours to get it," said Xavier Chambon, president of Maxi-Livres, a low-cost publisher and bookstore chain that debuted the vending machines in June. "It's as if our stores were open 24 hours a day."

Stocked with 25 of Maxi-Livres bestselling titles, the machines cover the gamut of literary genres and tastes. Classics such as "The Odyssey" by Homer and Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" share the limited shelf space with practical must-haves such as "100 Delicious Couscous" and "Verb Conjugations."

"Our biggest vending machine sellers are 'The Wok Cookbook' and a French-English dictionary," said Chambon, who added that poet Charles Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal" - "The Flowers of Evil" - also is "very popular." Regardless of whether they fall into the category of high culture or low, all books cost a modest $2.45.

We can't tell you how many times at 2:00 am we've been struck by the overwhelming urge to find a copy of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. Thank goodness we'll now have an outlet. If we're in Paris, of course.

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