Got 5 Minutes? Punch a Button and Read a Short Story

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April 16, 2018

Short story kiosks are finding a market in the U.S., three years after their launch in France.

Short Edition kiosk buttons

The company is Short Edition, and the idea is that a person can punch a button on a dispenser and receive a printout of a short story, designed to be read in one, three, or five minutes. The user determines the length-by-duration and the genre of story by pushing the relevant buttons. The user pays nothing, and the paper is eco-friendly.

The company, which Christophe Sibieude began as a startup in 2011, installed the 5-foot-tall kiosks in French airports, hospitals, railway stations, and shopping centers beginning in 2015. The company, which has access to written material by nearly 8,000 authors, now has its kiosks in more than 150 locations on every continent except Antarctica. As of early 2018, the company said that its machines had recorded more than 18 million reads.

The company also encourages writers to submit their own work, for consideration to be included in future updates of the kiosk offerings. The worldwide database currently has more than 100,000 stories, from which administrators of each kiosk choose what to offer.

Short Edition kiosk in action

The first English-language kiosk appeared in 2016, in a San Francisco cafe owned by famed director Francis Ford Coppola. Cafes in Miami and Boston followed suit. The company sponsored a high-profile rollout to the American market at the technology showcase CES in 2018.

In March 2018, the Public Association launched a Short Edition initiative in the United States, selecting four public libraries around the country to feature the kiosks, called Short Story Dispensers. The libraries are in Akron, Ohio; Columbia, S.C.; Philadelphia; and Wichita, Kan.

The machines can be found in school as well. Among the learning institutions currently sporting Short Story Dispensers are Penn State University and Columbus, Ohio, public schools.

The company's website also has an online version of a kiosk.

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David White