urban antiques

I like pdf files and e-books as much as any environmentally-conscious denizen out there, but nothing beats the feeling of physically holding a book. I have a particular fondness for the old, aging paper’s touch and smell, or picking out the most appealing cover I can find. I don’t know, there’s something that makes it feel more personal and the stories more real when its has palpable weight in your hands.

We live in an age now where immediacy is a given and efficiency is key. There is nothing wrong with that, per say. It’s just the natural progression of things. Maybe I’m just too sentimental to really accept the capitalist side of it all, but I still haven’t quite accepted the great shift towards electronic reading. I need my bookshops, my libraries, my tea, and my books upon books.

The tea will always be there, of course, but the question still remains on how can you repackage the dying art of print to make it last even if for a little while longer?

I stumbled onto this amazing contraption built by Craig Small for the The Monkey’s Paw, a Toronto-based idiosyncratic bookshop specializing in the unusual and used. Called the Biblio-Mat, this vending machine has been reconfigured to dispense books just as unique and varied as the store its found in. $2 a pop, the machine churns out books you’d probably ignore in the discount or sale section, but hey, not knowing what you get is part of the appeal, no? Programed to ring like an old telephone, the machine is guaranteed to delight and amuse. Take a peek on how it’s all done:

I mean, who can resist a little Tom Waits as well?

Interestingly, I found a similar idea and concept to this halfway across the world: Hamburg-based publishing company Hamburger Automatenverlag has taken advantage of the stricter smoking regulations in Germany that are rendering cigarette vending machines redundant. After a few alterations, the machines now dispense miniature books. At €4 a piece, these novels, photography books, or poetry collections are interesting and affordable enough to check out at least once:


I speak no German whatsoever, but this video feature on the whole thing needs to translation to get it’s brilliance across:

You say you like your books bigger than a cigarette box and for free? Well, New York-based artist and architect John Locke has heard you, and has come up with an interesting way of reinventing the library. Operating with the same premise of updating the analogue, Locke takes rapidly approaching obsolete pay phones and converts them into shelvings for mini libraries scattered all across the city. Using eye-catching bright orange fixtures with donated books, Locke has found an ingenious way to repurpose the old into something new.  A part of his ongoing project called “the Department of Urban Betterment”, Locke is also looking for people interested and eager to be a part of the movement.

booth_001booth_003I have to admit, the selection of Martel, Eugenides, and Marquez would be enough to get me scrambling to help this man.



Will it all work? Are these ideas charming enough to make print stylish again, or is it all too fauxhemian and hipster-like for your liking? Only time will tell.

But I like it. And I whole-heartedly support it. Because books and reading are classic. And classic never goes out of style.


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