Once upon a time there was a start-up with a dream of bringing the pleasures of reading to more people.

Happily, this dream came true.

At the push of a button the Short Story Dispenser prints out fiction that can be read in one, three or five minutes, for free.

The machines have been installed in transit hubs, government offices, universities and cafes.
Image: Short Edition

The black and orange machines, the brainchild of French publisher Short Edition, dispense stories on long strips of paper. There are no screens and stories are printed from a digital catalogue of original works by Short Edition’s community of more than 5000 authors.

Short Edition says the aim is to encourage reading and writing, and to share the work of its authors with a wider audience.

The company, based in Grenoble, France, installed its first Short Story Dispenser in 2016. Since then more than 150 have appeared in government offices, airports, train stations, shopping centres, universities and cafes, including one in film director Francis Ford Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco.

The stories, which span a variety of genres including children’s literature, are curated to suit the audiences in each location.

Columbus City Schools in Ohio bought five dispensers as part of a strategy to promote reading among young people, and public libraries in a handful of US cities have announced they will be installing them too.