Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The strange appeal of the Biblio-Mat

I have more books than I can read. My shelves are stacked three books deep with books squeezed in everywhere they can fit, and new books arrive in the post almost on a daily basis. I don't need more. I turn down offers of books every day, and yet, I'm strangely attracted to the Biblio-Mat. I don't live in Toronto, CA, where the Biblio-Mat is housed - in a very cool looking bookstore called The Monkey's Paw - but if I did, or if there were one near me (there isn't even a bookstore nearby anymore), I'd be at it regularly to put $2 into the machine and take my chances on a randomised antique book, delivered like a gumball, out of the slot at the bottom. Why? It's certainly not because I need something to read - there is a gorgeous stack of great books right here awaiting my attention.  Perhaps it's because the machine itself is kind of retro, with a cover like an old Penguin novel. Maybe it's because it makes old fashioned noises like bells, whirs and clinks (and I'm feeling nostalgic for that kind of noise). You can have a look and listen yourself here:  Or maybe it's because, as Stephen Fowler, owner of the Biblio-Mat and The Monkey's Paw puts it, there's a sense that the book that comes out the bottom is choosing you personally. That is, of course, the serendipity that makes it so appealing. It's a lucky dip for readers - a tiny bit of a gamble that won't leave you broke. What book lover could resist that?


  1. Kind of like when the slots pay eh? That money was meant for me. It was destiny.
    Just kidding. I can see the appeal to curiosity and the price is so small why the heck not?