All the websites and local newspapers are talking about the Biblio-Mat. It is a vending machine in Toronto's Monkey's Paw bookstore that is described by owner Stephen Fowler as " the first antiquarian book randomizer." After designer Craig Small sent a video to BoingBoing, it's been everywhere; I dropped in to try it out.
The Monkey's Paw describes itself as "Toronto's most idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop, specializing in uncommon and out-of-print books, ephemera, and images." It certainly lives up to that description; I expect that I will be spending a lot of time there. The Star calls the Biblio-Mat project:
...a labour of love for Small, eating away evenings and weekends with designs, animations and eventually the build itself inside his garage. The result was an old metal office supply cupboard, originally called the “book-randomizer,” which went live in late October.
I dropped a toonie (Canadian two dollar coin) into the slot and the machine made impressive noises, rang a bell and I struck bibliographic gold: two books dropped out.
The machine not only dispenses books, but it reads minds; I am a terrible photographer, as the in-store shot of the book attests. This is just what I needed.
Used bookstores are a dying breed in the age of Amazon and online shopping. Owner Stephen Fowler has found a niche; he tells the Star:
The theme of this shop is to hold unusual books that are going to surprise people, not your usual pile of bestsellers. We go through considerable pains to find really odd and out-of-the-way published artifacts. And the stuff that goes into the machine is no different.
What a wonderful way to recycle and encourage reading.