Short-story vending machines installed at London tube station

Commuters can now print off short works by Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf for their journey home

2019 Short Story Stations
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Living in a big city can be stressful. And let's face it, the commute to and from work is often the cause of much of that stress. But for workers in London's Canary Wharf, that might all be about to change. Instead of frantically trying to reply to an email with their face in someone's armpit, they will soon have the option of reading a short story.

Later this week, a number of short-story vending machines will be installed at Canary Wharf's underground station, dispensing free one-, three- and five-minute stories by authors, including Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, as well as a selection of new stories.

Anthony Horowitz, bestselling author of the Alex Rider novels, has also written a new story, Mr Robinson, to support the 'Short Story Stations' initiative. The stories are printed out like (very long) receipts on eco-friendly papyrus paper.

“It was the challenge of writing a story that could be read between two stations, not just a short story but a very short story,” Horowitz said. “Because I love mystery and whodunnits, the question of [whether] it would it be possible to write a proper whodunnit with a solution, which made you smile, in such a short amount of space was irresistible. The whole notion amused me.

“What appealed to me was that I travel on the tube every single day and I see everybody buried in apps and games, or looking at old tweets,” continued Horowitz. “So the idea of using that little chunk of your day for something that entertains you, something which is, with a very small ‘l’, literature, is appealing.”

Head of arts and events at the Canary Wharf Group, Lucie Moore, added: “We’re all guilty of saying we’re too busy, but our research found that a staggering 70 per cent of us would rather get lost in a good book than get lost down the rabbit hole of social media. Our short story stations provide the perfect digital antidote – a return to analogue scrolling.”

The vending machines, which are made by French company Short Edition, have already been installed at stations, restaurants and universities in France, Hong Kong and the US.