Should you ever find yourself waiting in line at the city hall in Grenoble—a surprisingly flat city at the base of the French Alps—you will discover an unexpected way to bide your time. Joining the line of traditional junk food and questionable espresso vending machines is a short story dispenser, which offers differing lengths of classic and contemporary tales, depending on the amount of time you have to spare.
Short Edition—a French publisher that, as its name implies, publishes only short format literature and comics—is now renting short story dispensers to organizations in Grenoble. The idea came to Quentin Pleplé, the publisher’s co-founder, while he was enjoying a break near the company’s vending machine with his coworkers. It was there that he thought, explains Pleplé, “of building some kind of snack machine, but for stories.”
The stories are free and come in three lengths. For those with only seconds to spare, a one minute format provides the shortest of short—yet resonant—stories; for those with time to kill, the three and five minute formats offer longer prose. The stories, Pleplé explains, are both “from our community and classic literature that is free from copyright.” When you choose your preferred format, one story out of the 600 saved in the dispenser is randomly chosen and printed on demand.
Eight dispensers are currently rented throughout Grenoble in its city hall, libraries, and visitor centres. But expansion lies on the horizon; Pleplé has received requests from all over the world, including from Canadian organizations. Perhaps soon, we too can enjoy delightful mind-candy while we wait.