Reading Railroad

Book vendors offer commuters literary entertainment

For all their love of technology, young people are driving the resurgence of print books and magazines, particularly as entertainment for their daily commutes. In fact, being seen with a paperback can make one more attractive, and the tactic is even being leveraged to meet potential partners. Now, several companies and organizations are stoking this desire for transit-worthy reading material with easy access to books on the go.


To celebrate World Book Day, Brazilian publisher L&PM created a campaign called Ticket Books, which placed kiosks of free books in subway stations around Sao Paulo. Passersby could select from 10 classic titles from the likes of Pablo Neruda, Agatha Christie, and Sun Tzu. Featuring covers inspired by subway maps, the pocket tomes were embedded with sensors that contained 10 free rides on the city’s underground rails. When the lucky recipients were finished with their novels, they could recharge them with additional rides and pass them on to friends. The project was so popular that L&PM expanded it to include other Brazilian cities.


In Grenoble, commuters can get their hands on free fiction from one of eight vending machines from publisher Short Édition placed throughout the city, mostly in public buildings such as libraries and city hall. Users can select the length of story they wish to read—one, three, or five minutes—but not the content itself. The machine then churns out the tale printed on receipt-like paper. Stories are sourced from a library of more than 60,000 shorts on the publisher’s community website. With more than 10,000 stories printed in the first two weeks of the initiative, Short Édition hopes to expand the program both locally and abroad.


With a society increasingly expecting on-demand service of their entertainment needs, public libraries run the risk of becoming irrelevant. However, many are actively addressing young readers’ needs, including the Toronto Public Library, which plans to create a book-lending kiosk in the city’s popular Union Station. The intent is to give the thousands of commuters who pass through the terminal daily the opportunity to pick up a book en route to pass the time. The 24/7 machine will also be serving up downloadable ebooks, as well as lending DVDs. The kiosk is slated for service beginning in April and will no doubt include many well-known novels featuring rail travel.