November 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Book Vending Machines

Earlier this month, an antiquarian bookshop in Toronto unveiled "The Biblio-Mat," a gorgeous vending machine containing antiquarian books.  The Biblio-Mat rests in a corner of the bookshop where it awaits customers to try their luck by inserting $2.00 into the machine.  It then dispenses a random antiquarian book.

The machine was conceived by builder Craig Small for The Monkey's Paw as an alternative to the usual sidewalk discount bin.  The books offered up by the Biblio-mat vary widely in content and format.  The machine inspires repeat visits by encouraging you to "collect all 112 million titles."

While it's nice to see a book vending machine in action again, some readers may recall that book vending machines have been around since the 1940s. Here is an excellent photograph from Life magazine in 1949 depicting the "Book-o-Mat."

bookomat.jpgAround the same time the "Penguincubator" was installed on Charing Cross Road in London.  This machine only dispensed books published by Penguin:

But the winner, in terms of vintage, is this photograph from a 1947 copy of Popular Science.  This machine held 150 books available at 25 cents a pop.

47oldbookmachine.jpgCheck out this great Pinterest board by Suzi Holler for more images of book vending machines, including some in use today by libraries.

Anyone know of any other vintage book vending machines?