April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Short Story Dispensers Spread Power of Literature

The long, narrow paper looks like a grocery store receipt, but there is nothing to purchase here. Instead, this scroll offers a short story, randomly generated that can be read in one, three, or five minutes. It is a gift from a Short Story Dispenser.

Photo courtesy of Short Edition

The dispensers are free. They are fun. And they aim to spread a love of reading and an excitement around literature. The column-shaped dispensers, which draw in the curious with their design, are the product of Short Edition, a digital publishing platform.

Now the Public Library Association (PLA) has partnered with Short Edition to bring Short Story Dispensers to four libraries in the United States: Akron-Summit County (OH) Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, Richland Library in Columbia, SC, and Wichita (KS) Public Library.

The partnership, made possible by Knight Foundation funds, was announced during the PLA Conference in Philadelphia last week. It also marked the launch of a new digital platform, short-edition.com/en, for sharing new stories. One of the goals of the partnership is to encourage diverse writers to share their work through the platform.

Speaking at the press conference in the grand foyer of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Patrick Morgan of the Knight Foundation said the Short Story Dispensers and further the public libraries’ important role. “Now more than ever public libraries have an essential role to play in connecting people and supporting informed and engaged communities,” Morgan said.

People will be encouraged to engage and contribute.

“We want to see the resident at the center of all things,” said Morgan, “We think Short Edition community platform allows anybody to tell their story.”

He said there will be contests to encourage local writers to upload their stories.

Photo courtesy of Short Edition

Short Edition began in 2011 as a publisher of short literature (anything that can be read in five minutes or less). Based in France, the start-up takes submissions, and the “shortest and best” are selected by the platform’s community of authors and readers to be available on the dispensers.

“We believe in the power of literature to help people thrive, find their personal balance and place in society,” said  Christophe Sibieude, co-founder of Short Edition. “Our aim it to promote and propel reading via Short Story Dispensers connected to our community publishing platform.”

Typically, the dispensers have three buttons: “1,” “3,” and “5,” denoting the amount of time it should take to read the story. But they can be customized. Columbus Public Health recently installed a dispenser near the children’s area at an immunization clinic. Instead of having buttons for 1-, 3-, and 5-minute stories, the Columbus machine offer two choices: “Stories for Young Readers” and “Stories for Everyone.”

The dispenser was one of five acquired by Columbus (OH) City Schools late last year in an attempt to get stories to children where they normally wouldn’t have access to books. They not only bring literature to the kids but the excitement of the dispensing process and the distraction from doctors.

In the fall of 2015, Short Edition debuted the dispensers in France and, by the end of 2017, 150 dispensers had been installed, including 20 outside of France in the United States, Hong Kong, and Australia. They have been placed in various locations, including hospitals, train stations, shopping malls, and coffee shops around the world.


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Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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  1. So…this sounds super cool! What an absolutely fantastic idea!!

  2. I really like this! Gives a boost in literacy levels to those who may be excluded from it all. Plus gives new writers a chance to shine in a very novel medium. A really cool project and I hope we get it in Canada soon!

    My one little quibble would be what kind of paper the machines print on. Could be a way to reduce waste if they offer a similar digital option, like an app with proximity detection. Or biodegradable paper. Both would be good!

  3. Dr.Deepak Kumar Shrivastava says:

    It’s excellent idea for vibrant spaces of library but being a librarian we need this dispensior so he we can get and how much you have to pay

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