Book-O-Mat and other vintage vending machines

Boing Vend1
Seen here, the Book-O-Mat vending machine from 1949. What a terrific idea! More vintage (and modern) vending machines -- flowers, liquor, lemonade, bikini, gold! -- over at LIFE. "In Praise of Vending Machines"


  1. In German train stations there are sometimes snack vending machines that have some slots with cheap classic literature in them. They go well with the gummy bears beside them.

  2. Visiting Japan for a couple of weeks, I really got used to the ubiquitous vending machines where you could–pretty much anywhere, including bus stops in tiny mountain towns–buy a warm or cold drink from a selection of about 20 different types, for more or less the same price as it would cost at a convenience store.

    Compare vending machines everywhere else, where the drinks cost twice as much and you can pick from a choice of about 3 drinks plus their diet equivalents…

    I wonder how it works there but nowhere else?

    1. It’s because, although they compensate with sundry uniquely Japanese crimes, there’s practically no theft or vandalism in Japan. After the school kids are home, some of the side-street vending machines do a transformers-like change and start selling bottles of whiskey. Over here even pop machines get vandalised and deaths by being crushed by a vending machine while trying to boost a free can out of the bottom has commented on by the Darwin Awards more than once.

  3. Considering the date, I would bet this is a promotional stunt advertising the existence of the “pocket book,” the new mass-market paperback format that over the next five years would send pulp magazines and cheap hardcover reprints into the dustbin of history.

  4. I remember seeing Heineken in vending machines in Amsterdam long ago, and as an American Midwesterner, being completely taken by surprise by that.

  5. When I was a kid I loved the vending machines some motels had, with toothpaste and soap and laundry detergent and deodorant.

  6. Incredible as it may sound in our culture-starved country, the subway stations of Milano, Italy, have book vending machines since 2004 or so.

  7. I love that the stocking vender (should a machine that vends be a vender or a vendor?) is labelled as a ‘Strumpautomat’.

  8. We have one of the newer models in our small library in rural Northern California. Unfortunately, it has been nothing but a headache from the word “GO.”

  9. Here‘s a book vending machine I saw in a subway station in Seoul in 2007. You can see Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s names there, as well as the bottom row of books which looks to be something to do with blood group horoscopes (if that’s the right word).

  10. I’ve already seen MP3 downloading stations for portable and car MP3 players at convenience stores. How long will it be before one can replenish one’s Kindle, Nook or Kobo at similar machines? (And will they accept cash or just plastic?)

  11. Tangible objects often have a well defined price floor. Factors for that are subject to exceptions. I was restocking a drink vendor last year and noticed in it’s programming setup- an option for time of day price changes and column lock outs. So setting Beer etc in one or more columns with hours restrictions as needed is “already there” in these machines. If someone wanted a creative Hack, they could roll reading material in tubes- recycled Pringles? and a slight mod of the vendor- potentially even only software? And yeah- you could buy “Dead Tree” material from an existing vendor with minor work. The “Too Obvious” of course is the Spiral Vendors used for Chips and Pastries etc. It’s not patentable as per this story’s lead pic establishing prior art :>

    But- think of the subversive delights of coin vending socially disruptive books. Now we’ve a Social Hack waiting to be deployed. Cory’s books make my list of Mind Bombs. As does 1984, Darkness At Noon, and really subversive stuff like- The Federalist Papers. Daring to put compendiums of the political world’s national documents past and present in a coin vendor may be a worthy concept too.

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