Books On Demand
January 31, 2011 7:25 AM   Subscribe

The library system in Polk County, Florida has installed vending machines so that patrons who aren't close to a library can still check books out.
posted by reenum (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's really cool, though I wonder if the limited selection necessary to fit into a vending machine makes the enterprise too limiting?
posted by xingcat at 7:30 AM on January 31, 2011


The same system will also mail library materials to members' homes.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:33 AM on January 31, 2011


I wonder if it is possible to call up the library before-hand and ask them to stock the machine with a certain book.
posted by aniola at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2011


This is great and all, but it won't be long before a library patron is killed after s/he tips the machine over while trying to dislodge a book stuck between the glass and the coils.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:37 AM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's really cool, though I wonder if the limited selection necessary to fit into a vending machine makes the enterprise too limiting?

Much as RedBox only stocks a limited supply of in-demand recent releases, I'm betting the bulk of what goes into these machines are similarly hot items - a stack of Tom Clancy and Harry Potter and the latest from Oprah's Book Club, rather than some Proust and a David Foster Wallace collection. Redbox vs Netflix. I can't recognize any of the covers in those machines, though, so that's pure conjecture on my part.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2011


Once again reality is indistinguishable from an Onion article.
posted by odinsdream at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2011


a library patron is killed after s/he tips the machine over while trying to dislodge a book

Gee, I wonder if said book will be part of the Stephenie Meyer oeuvre.
posted by Gator at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2011


Now we can get rid of those expensive librarians altogether!
posted by Segundus at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


ReadBoox.
posted by goethean at 7:47 AM on January 31, 2011 [23 favorites]


On the surface, it might seem rather cumbersome and obtuse, but Polk County is a fairly large area with a low population density which makes the machines seem kind of practical. Hopefully there will be some interesting and challenging titles available and not just the latest bestseller fluff.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 AM on January 31, 2011


Everytime I see a link to a Florida news story here on the blue, I instinctivly start hiding my head in home state related shame. cf.

But not this time! I'm so proud, my little state moving on from hoodrats and election fraud and finally growing up.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 7:50 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Favorited for NOT portraying Floridians as Teh Crazy. Please keep this trend going.
posted by misha at 7:53 AM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Finally, non-weird news from my home county!
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:53 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


They have this in the San Francisco Bay Area: Library-a-go-go
posted by vacapinta at 7:56 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up in an area that was just past the edge of the urban sprawl (since then has been subsumed by the city, though), and there were regular visits by the bookmobile to the local grocery store parking lot. I wonder if these are really any cheaper.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:02 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Totally wrong direction. Rather than trying to co-opt snack vending technology, libraries should be working on adapting high velocity t-shirt delivery technology to books.

That way, librarians call all load up in their custom bookmobiles to prowl across out post-reading wasteland. "READ A BOOK," a librarian with a pink mohawk will shout as she fires a copy of The Pillars of the Earth at a pedestrian who could not get out of sight fast enough. "CHECK YOUR FACTS," shouts another through teeth filed down to points as he draws a bead on a civilian listening to talk radio in their car. "THIS BOOK REALLY HELPED ME THROUGH A DARK TIME, YOU MIGHT FIND SOME SOLACE IN IT," screams another as she kamikazes her way into a funeral procession.

"WHO RULES POLK COUNTY?"
"DEWEY DECIMAL RULES POLK COUNTY."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:09 AM on January 31, 2011 [42 favorites]


I came up with a very similar idea in one of my classes last semester! I think it's a great system for people who live in more rural areas or who don't have access to transportation to the local library.
posted by zoetrope at 8:15 AM on January 31, 2011


a stack of Tom Clancy and Harry Potter and the latest from Oprah's Book Club, rather than some Proust and a David Foster Wallace collection.


GOD HELP US!!!
posted by Think_Long at 8:20 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


this is neat.

but not a super-neat as a bookmobile. I grew up a short walk away from the flagship library for our area, and it was huge and had a massive selection. But I was still always a little sad that that meant we would never have a visit from a bookmobile because it was a miniature library on wheels. (As a child, I was convinced that everything was more exciting if it was miniature and/or on wheels).
posted by jb at 8:28 AM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


My uncle's neighborhood on Staten Island was visited by a bookmobile during the summer I spent with them as a tyke. I took out a book on the World Series that I don't think I ever returned.

As for the vending machine idea: why not? I bought my iPod from a vending machine actually.
posted by jonmc at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2011


I really do think this is neat, and neater actually than bookmobiles because these vending machines could conceivably be accessible 24/7 instead of only during business hours on weekdays. I know some libraries are able to stay open later and maybe even on weekends, but in a lot of places that's just not feasible. Anything that makes free books more accessible = good.
posted by Gator at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you could do some sort of print-on-demand system rather than a vending machine with a static list of items. IIRC libraries already get some significant exemptions to copyright law as it is, if they could get some exemption which allowed them to do POD out of their existing catalog (perhaps provided that the book would be returned after the normal amount of time?), you could really do some neat stuff.

I've thought the same thing about RedBox, though; there's more than enough room in those machines for terabytes of storage and a DVD recorder, it's asinine that all they do is dispense a few dozen titles worth of prerecorded DVDs when they could have thousands of titles available.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2011


a library patron is killed after s/he tips the machine over while trying to dislodge a book

No, no, this needs way more irony, like a guy, his lesbian ex-wife, and her bi-sexual girlfriend being trapped under the machine after trying to dislodge a copy of No Exit.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:43 AM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anything that makes free books more accessible = good.
posted by Gator


Including torrents of ebooks?
posted by Keith Talent at 8:54 AM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


> No, no, this needs way more irony

I was thinking of someone getting their hand stuck trying to reach up to get a stuck copy of "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", but that is just kind of cruel.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:01 AM on January 31, 2011


Gator - you're right about the better access. When the bookmobile was coming by my mom's house a couple of years ago, it was only for 2 hours on a Wednesday. She was always missing it.

But I just had an irrational kid's love of trailers and mobile homes and caravans -- and the bookmobile was like the magic schoolboys to me. (Also something I saw on tv, rather than in real life, until I was older and we moved).
posted by jb at 9:05 AM on January 31, 2011


"WHO RULES POLK COUNTY?"
"DEWEY DECIMAL RULES POLK COUNTY."


LibraaAAarians! Come out and plaaAAAay!


(Seriously though, this is very very cool.)
posted by xedrik at 9:09 AM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


What a waste. If one has to get a book from a vending machine...just wrong.
posted by clavdivs at 9:09 AM on January 31, 2011


What a coincidence, I was just emailing back and forth last night with a friend of mine who's a librarian in SF about this. The excerpts (if anyone is interested in a professional's opinion) are like this:

"They have one on BART - at the end of the line in the East Bay (not Fremont, but the northern end, I think)...."

"It's not generally meant to replace a library - more like being able to get stamps at the grocery or the hardware store when you're not near the post office."

"If you're there and have your card, you can get a book and head on with your day. If you want something specific or a wider selection... then you go to the real library. :)"

"Nice quick picks. Like a liquor store for intellectual types. :)"

I liked the liquor store for intellectual types. I told her they should put that on all the SF library cards.
posted by Relay at 9:09 AM on January 31, 2011


Too late Kadin2048.
posted by sperose at 9:12 AM on January 31, 2011


I wonder if you could do some sort of print-on-demand system rather than a vending machine with a static list of items.

Google's working on this.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:16 AM on January 31, 2011


libraries should be working on adapting high velocity t-shirt delivery technology to books.

The BookCannon™ may have its drawbacks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:22 AM on January 31, 2011


(I love the collective sigh of relief on the part of other central Floridians every time there's a news story about central Florida that doesn't involve methamphetamine, alligators, and car theft.)

I kind of wish they didn't have the return boxes, though, and made you go to the actual library to return your copy of America by Heart. Like, gotcha! Didn't think we'd ever catch you here, now did you?
posted by wreckingball at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2011


What's wrong with alligator stories?
posted by Gator at 9:31 AM on January 31, 2011


Kadin2048: I wonder if you could do some sort of print-on-demand system rather than a vending machine with a static list of items. IIRC libraries already get some significant exemptions to copyright law as it is, if they could get some exemption which allowed them to do POD out of their existing catalog (perhaps provided that the book would be returned after the normal amount of time?), you could really do some neat stuff.

I've thought the same thing about RedBox, though; there's more than enough room in those machines for terabytes of storage and a DVD recorder, it's asinine that all they do is dispense a few dozen titles worth of prerecorded DVDs when they could have thousands of titles available.


As mentioned in the link from sperose, books-on-demand machines exist, but they are costly (Wired lists a machine at $100k), so it's not the sort of thing you'd install to perform without supervision. But these machines are (supposed to be) limited to items that are out of copyright and material available through Open Content Alliance. A DVD burner of this sort would then be limited to the same constraints, as the good is being sold, not loaned. Until $5/DVDr movies become a legal reality, RedBox will continue to lend DVDs out from the limited, high-demand stock of recent releases.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on January 31, 2011


This is an awesome idea!

Will it sell Kindles?
posted by miyabo at 9:38 AM on January 31, 2011


Burhanistan writes "I grew up in an area that was just past the edge of the urban sprawl (since then has been subsumed by the city, though), and there were regular visits by the bookmobile to the local grocery store parking lot. I wonder if these are really any cheaper."

Hard to say but it sure will be more accessible at the cost of selection.
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2011


If one has to get a book from a vending machine...just wrong.

This must have been written by someone wh has never known the agony of being bereft of words, in a line, on a page. These machines should be in every transit station, airport or convenience store, doubly so in rural areas.

The worst part of summer camp was not having (enough) books to last me through the week. I would have killed for one of these in our tuck shop.
posted by bonehead at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2011


It's just the logical extension of what's already going on. The last place I lived, I basically use the library system as a netflix/bookflix/gamefly queue, and pick them up from a drive through book depository on the way home from work. And the research library has shelving automatons. Vending machines seems like the next step to take. I mean, LoC has had the Blue Box system for ages, or whatever replaced that. And Polk already has some form of bookflix.

I can't recognize any of the covers in those machines, though, so that's pure conjecture on my part.

The right one seems to be DVDs and childrens books. I recognize Despicable Me, for example.
posted by pwnguin at 10:19 AM on January 31, 2011


I wonder if you could do some sort of print-on-demand system rather than a vending machine with a static list of items.

So I'm no expert in the field but there are no technological obstacles to this.

On-demand book printing & binding machines exist. Costs are somewhat higher than regular books and printing a book the library already has a copy of elsewhere would be wasteful, but it's not impossible.

Encoding books electronically isn't hard. And even scanning existing books is doable as Google has shown.

The issue is partly economic and partly regulatory - publishers want to be very, very sure that when a book gets printed they get paid. I think that last bit is what keep these things from showing up in every 7-11 across the USA.
posted by GuyZero at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2011


The last place I lived, I basically use the library system as a netflix/bookflix/gamefly queue, and pick them up from a drive through book depository on the way home from work

Yeah, I read books from the library all the time, but I rarely if ever actually venture into the stacks- I place a hold online and books from anywhere in the L.A. library system are delivered to my local branch, where I pick them up at the front desk.

I don't see why this couldn't be extended to delivering them to a box on the corner where you scan your card and the book pops out. It wouldn't be necessary in a city like L.A. where there's a branch every few miles anyway, but could work great in more sparsely-populated areas.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:31 AM on January 31, 2011


This ends, predictably, with thousands of Floridians filing a class-action lawsuit after they fail to read the instructions, mash some buttons, and receive the latest Richard Dawkins when they really meant to select The Bible.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:31 AM on January 31, 2011


If this catches on, it'll be interesting to see if the movie industry attempts to impose release windowing, like it did with RedBox et al.

Favorited for NOT portraying Floridians as Teh Crazy. Please keep this trend going.

Bet it doesn't last.

"DEWEY DECIMAL RULES POLK COUNTY."

Well, that didn't take long.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:36 AM on January 31, 2011


See also: Book Booth, a neat idea to turn a phonebook into a leave-a-book-take-a-book repository.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:04 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The local library here has a vending machine at the south station of the LRT, everyone I know who uses it uses it more for the drop-off functionality though.
posted by selenized at 11:55 AM on January 31, 2011


Well, that didn't take long.

I suggest that from here on out, only people who have actually lived in Polk Co. FL should comment on what an armpit that hellhole is.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:06 PM on January 31, 2011


I spent my teen years in Polk County. At the time, I believe it had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state and maybe the second highest HIV infection rate. It was, and I think still is, a showcase of America's have/have not divide. I hated it.

There's a reason mefites come into a Florida post expecting the worst. There's a reason it's got a category on Fark.

THIS, however, is rad. Especially in this economy. I hope the program is very successful.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 2:02 PM on January 31, 2011


Have you guys seen/heard of this? Germany or Florida
posted by notned at 2:48 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I can't help envisioning something more akin to a Horn & Hardart's automat rather than one of those Redbox vending machines. How brilliant would that be if you could go into a room, peek in all the little windows and choose your books? Wouldn't it be even better if you could get a turkey club, a dish of macaroni and cheese, and a slice of pie.. all for 15 cents PLUS whatever library books you want?! (Don't steal my idea.)

And, I hope this is a successful program! Anything that promotes reading is good, and anything that promotes reading actual, real books is even better!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:53 PM on January 31, 2011


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