A vending machine has been unveiled at Exeter St. David’s train station in the UK by Penguin Books, the site Exeter.gov.uk reported. The machine will offer a range of curated titles, including classic and contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. Customers can browse through the selection, purchase books using contactless payment, and take the books away with them. The machine is part of a wider initiative by Penguin Books to promote reading and make books more accessible to people on the go.
Interestingly, there is a lot of symbolism involved with the choice of location for unveiling the book vending machine. As the publisher revealed in a Tweet, “In 1935, Sir Allen Lane was inspired to create Penguin Books when he couldn’t find a good book to read at Exeter St. David’s train station.” Sir Allen Lane was returning home after meeting with Agatha Christie
“We’ve gone back to our roots to ensure modern day commuters won’t face the same problem.”
“If you’re passing through the station, go check it out Profits will be shared between local independent Bookbag and Exeter City of Literature. Huge thank you to our partners GWR and Exeter City of Literature for bringing this to life.”
The vending machine which has been provided by a local vending company happens to be a collaboration between Penguin Books, a city of literature, and a railway company. The books on offer will be updated frequently to include new releases, bestsellers, and books celebrating significant cultural events such as Pride Month or environmental awareness initiatives.
The newly introduced book-dispensing system is a nod to the founding principles of Penguin Books, which is to make good books accessible to everyone. The initiative aims to provide commuters with affordable and captivating books to read during their travels. Proceeds from the book vending machine will be used to fund the activities of Bookbag, an independent bookstore, and the Exeter City of Literature, an organization dedicated to promoting literacy and championing books in the local community.
Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director of Exeter UNESCO City of Literature, contacted the publishing company in 2021 to propose a book vending machine at the location where the company was founded. “I grew up in Exeter, but didn’t learn about Penguin’s history until, ironically, I was working in publishing in New York.,” Orchard said.
“When I took on my current role, I knew I wanted to promote Exeter and Devon’s interesting, and often hidden, literary history to a much wider audience. This incredible invention, made possible by Penguin’s enthusiastic support and the work of a local vending machine company, will not only make reading more accessible to everyone who steps foot onto St Davids, but it will shine a light on how Devon has inspired so many great figures in the literary world.”
Zainab Juma, Head of Brand at Penguin, said: “When Exeter City of Literature approached us about the Penguin Books vending machine, we knew immediately that it was the perfect way to celebrate our origins. Whiling away your time with a book is one of the great pleasures of train travel and this machine is just what our founder Allen Lane would have wanted to see as he set off on his journey. We’re especially pleased that the vending machine will benefit Bookbag, a local independent bookstore, and Exeter City of Literature who do brilliant work celebrating Exeter’s literary history and making books and reading more accessible in the local community.”
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