Why get boring old snacks from a vending machine when you can get uncommon, old books?
If you're a regular bookshop bargain hunter, you are probably familiar with the discount bins and shelves sitting on the sidewalk right outside your local indie. Browse the selection, and for one, two, or three dollars, you can take home a rare and eclectic book to add a unique artifact to your personal collection.
Sadly, these book bins are often ignored in favor of bestsellers and more commercial titles.
To reinvigorate interest in obscure and peculiar books, antiquarian bookstore The Monkey's Paw introduced Toronto to the Biblio-Mat, a vending machine that churns out old books of all sizes and subjects.
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The Biblio-Mat has drawn countless numbers of bookworms from all over the world since it was first installed in 2012. “People use the machine every day, people come visit us from all over the place,” owner Stephen Fowler told Global News. “Sometimes it feels like the thing is just running non-stop all day long.”
Even though the mechanics behind this random book dispenser seem complicated, it's actually easy to use. For $3, you can purchase a coin, drop it in the coin slot, and the Biblio-Mat will randomly select your next read. No two books are alike, so not only do you get one-of-a-kind souvenirs for your home library, there are endless opportunities for surprise and delight with each book you buy.
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The mystery, anticipation, and thrill of getting a book from what may be the world's coolest vending machine is reason enough to visit the Toronto bookstore, but The Monkey's Paw also has a lot of other exciting antiques to offer.
According to its website, the independent bookshop stocks 20th-century books and paper artifacts, specializing in "visual culture; obsolete opinions and technologies; lesser-known works on highly specific topics; books as objects; and pop detritus." You won't find bestsellers or any books published after the 1970s among these shelves: all the books tucked away here are truly special.