Paris, August 22:
Parisian book-lovers desirous of a dose of Dumas in the dead of night or some Stendhal on a Sunday can turn to a new development in automated distribution â€” the book vending machine.
Five bright yellow Livre a toute heure machines, sto-cking 25 contemporary and classic titles, have been installed around the city over the past six weeks, the latest in the cavernous Chate-let metro station. â€œPeople have cravings for literature just as they do for bars of chocolate, fizzy drinks or all the other things you can now buy from machines,â€ said Xavier Chambon of the bookshop chain Maxi-Livres, â€œThese vendors mean itâ€™s as if our stores were open 24 hours a day.â€ He said most customers knew exactly what they wanted and were prepared to venture forth â€œat all hoursâ€ to get it. Among the titles on offer are Homerâ€™s Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland, but also practical books such as 100 Delicious Couscous Recipes.
â€œOur biggest vending-machine sellers are The Wok Cookbook and a popular French-English dictionary,â€ Chambon said. Baudelaireâ€™s Les Fleurs du Mal was also popular. Regardless of their literary merit, all books are sold at a modest two euros.
Unlike sweets, drinks and condoms distributors, book vending machines deliver their products without a characteristic thump. â€œWe knew French bibliophiles would be horrified to see their books falling into a trou-gh,â€ he said, â€œSo we equipped them with a mechanical arm that grabs the book and delivers it safely.â€
Other recent initiatives include more than a dozen mini supermarket machines selling up to 200 basics ranging from pre-cooked meals to cat food, razors, tampons and toilet paper. The city of love also has two automated flower distributors. Jean-Marie Pilias, who installed the first of the machines next to his shop nearly three years ago, told Le Parisien, â€œIt may not be very romantic, but my turnover is up by six per cent.â€