Singapore has welcomed its first book vending machines, carrying up to 150 copies of 22 different titles from Singapore publishers.
Two machines were unveiled last Friday (3rd June) at the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Visitor Centre, with a third planned for the island-city state’s Goodman Arts Centre later this month.
The machines were set up by Singapore independent bookshop BooksActually, with a grant from the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s SPRING Singapore agency.
The shop’s owner, Kenny Leck, who also runs a BooksActually publishing arm Math Paper Press, told Channel News Asia the machines could be valuable for promoting literacy in Singapore.
“The whole idea is about accessibility and eyeballs. There are not enough bookstores in Singapore… [and] these vending machines could be a visual touchpoint. You may not buy [a book] but we’ll let you know these exist. And from there, there could be more possibilities. We start with visual awareness: books where you see a local author’s name.”
He also said that he plans to include a contactless payment option as he expands the project: “The ultimate place we want to put them are at train stations. BooksActually cannot be at Jurong MRT station every day, but it would be perfect if there was a vending machine there.”
Book vending machines have been available across Japan in underground stations for some time, while at least half a dozen Chinese companies build and distribute them.
Leck said he was inspired by London’s ‘Penguincubator’, conceived by founder of Penguin Books founder Allen Lane in 1937.
In 2010, Irish company Novel Idea introduced its own book vending machine at Heathrow airport, but went out of business not long afterwards. Meanwhile as The Bookseller reported last December, German trade publisher Bastei Lübbe along with book retailer Hugendubel unveiled a touring pop-up machine allowing the public to trade their unwanted Christmas presents for frontline titles.