Short Edition Short Story Vending Machines Come to the United States

Short story vending machine cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

A French company called Short Edition has installed vending machines throughout Europe that, at the press of a button, spit out a scroll of paper upon which a short story has been printed. There’s a button for one minute, three minutes or five minutes. That is the reading length. Choose one. Keep it. It’s free.

Now they are in the United States. More than 30 vending machines are up in universities, restaurants, transportation hubs and government offices. Two months ago, more were installed in public libraries in Philadelphia; Akron, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; and Wichita, Kansas. This past month, four were installed in downtown West Palm Beach. I imagine we will have one here soon.

The source for each story is a mainframe computer somewhere from which you randomly get one of 100,000 original compositions selected by judges at Short Edition, which holds various writing contests. Lots of people love the written word in all its forms, including me. We’ve now begun accepting entries into the Seventh Annual Dan’s Papers $10,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction competition. The contest closes the first week of August, and winners will be announced on August 23 at the gala Dan’s Papers Literary Festival at Guild Hall in East Hampton. I’m also going to try to have our contest entries be considered for Short Edition.

For 2018 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize info, go to

Here’s my one-minute story. Read slowly:

BALLPOINT PENS. Online continues its attacks. We continue to lay lonely in dark desk drawers everywhere. And it’s getting worse. Writing longhand is no longer going to be taught. Our worldwide protest—drying up the ink so people had to scribble the ballpoint to bring it back to life—has gotten us nowhere. There’s a meeting with the No. 2 Pencil Union next week. Their efforts, hardening all their erasers on the ends, came to naught too. We’ll see what happens. Pass it on. Your Obedient Servant BPP3872421235.

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