A Vending Machine Now Distributes Free Short Stories at Francis Ford Coppola’s Café Zoetrope

I loved the idea of a vend­ing machine, a dis­pens­ing machine that doesn’t dis­pense pota­to chips or beer or cof­fee for mon­ey but gives you art. I espe­cial­ly liked the fact that you didn’t put mon­ey in. — Film­mak­er Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la

Thus­ly did film­mak­er Cop­po­la arrange for a free Short Edi­tion sto­ry vend­ing machine to be installed in Café Zoetrope, his San Fran­cis­co restau­rant.

The French-built machine is the per­fect com­pan­ion for soli­tary din­ers, freely dis­pens­ing tales on skin­ny, eco-friend­ly paper with the push of a but­ton. Read­ers have a choice over the type of story—romantic, fun­ny, scary—and the amount of time they’re will­ing to devote to it.

After which, they can per­haps begin the task of adapt­ing it into a fea­ture-length film script. Part of Coppola’s attrac­tion to the form is that short sto­ries, like movies, are intend­ed to be con­sumed in a sin­gle sit­ting.

Short Edi­tion, the Greno­ble-based start-up, has been fol­low­ing up on the public’s embrace of the Café Zoetrope machine by send­ing even more short sto­ry kiosks state­side.

Colum­bus Pub­lic Health just unveiled one near the children’s area at its immu­niza­tion clin­ic, pro­vid­ing Ohio kids and par­ents from most­ly dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds with access to free lit­er­a­ture while they wait.

Philadelphia’s Free Library won a grant to install four sto­ry dis­pensers, with more slat­ed for loca­tions in South Car­oli­na and Kansas.

Part of the allure lays in receiv­ing a tan­gi­ble object. You can recy­cle your sto­ry into a book­mark, leave it for some­one else to find, or—in Coppola’s words—save it for an “artis­tic lift” while “wait­ing for a bus, or mar­riage license, or lunch.”

A café patron described the cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance of watch­ing her cousin read the sto­ry the Zoetrope machine picked out for her:

The scene seemed archa­ic: a woman frozen in con­cen­tra­tion, in the mid­dle of a buzzing crowd, read­ing from a line of print instead of scrolling through Insta­gram, as one might nor­mal­ly do while sit­ting solo at a bar. 

“When peo­ple ask [if] we have wifi for the kids,” Café Zoetrope’s gen­er­al man­ag­er told Lit­er­ary Hub, “We point to the machine and say, ‘No, but you have a story—you can read.’”

Those with­out access to a Short Edi­tion sto­ry vend­ing machine can get a feel for the expe­ri­ence dig­i­tal­ly on the company’s web­site.

Scroll down to the dice icon, spec­i­fy your pre­ferred tone and a read­ing time between 1 and 5 min­utes.

Or throw cau­tion to the wind by hit­ting the search but­ton sans spec­i­fi­ca­tion, as I did to become the 3232nd read­er of “Drowned,” a one-minute true crime sto­ry by Cléa Bar­reyre, trans­lat­ed from the French by Wendy Cross.

French speak­ers can also sub­mit their writ­ing. The vend­ing machines’ sto­ries are drawn from Short Edition’s online com­mu­ni­ty, a trove of some 100,000 short sto­ries by near­ly 10,000 authors. Reg­is­ter­ing for a free account will allow you to read sto­ries, after which you can tog­gle over to the French site to post your con­tent through the orange author space por­tal at the top right of the page. The FAQ and Google Trans­late should come in handy here. The edi­tors are cur­rent­ly review­ing sub­mis­sions of comics, poems, and micro fic­tion for the Sum­mer Grand Prix du Court, though again—only in French, for now. 

Short Edi­tion hopes to start con­sid­er­ing oth­er lan­guages for vend­ing machine con­tent inclu­sion soon, begin­ning with Eng­lish. For now, all sto­ries being dis­pensed have been trans­lat­ed from the orig­i­nal French by British lit­er­ary pro­fes­sion­als.

Bon courage!

via Lit­er­ary Hub

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 19 Short Sto­ries From Nobel Prize-Win­ning Writer Alice Munro Free Online

Napoleon’s Kin­dle: See the Minia­tur­ized Trav­el­ing Library He Took on Mil­i­tary Cam­paigns

Dis­cov­er the Jacobean Trav­el­ing Library: The 17th Cen­tu­ry Pre­cur­sor to the Kin­dle

Behold the “Book Wheel”: The Renais­sance Inven­tion Cre­at­ed to Make Books Portable & Help Schol­ars Study (1588)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, April 23 for the third install­ment of her lit­er­ary-themed vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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