Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Book Trade Vending Machine

To allow commuters to trade books
  (+37, -1)(+37, -1)(+37, -1)
(+37, -1)
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Like many commuters, I read cheap paperbacks on the underground (train), most of which I will never read again after they're finished. My idea is for a vending machine for books which is kept filled by commuters donating the books that they've just finished, and funded by a nominal charge for each book traded.


1. Approach machine. Put 50p (or similar amount in your local currency) in slot.
2. The 'Return' window will open. Put the book that you want to trade in so that the machine can read the barcode.
3. The 'Return' window will close. Press the 'New book' button.
4. When a new book appears behind the 'New Book' window, if you want it, push the window to open it. Otherwise press the 'New book' button again until you see a book you want.

Notes: The book's barcode is read to ensure it's a real book. Any books which spend too long in the machine are donated to charity. The money collected will be spent on maintenance and 'seed' secondhand books from charity shops.
hippo, Oct 11 2001

bookcrossing http://futurebird.bookcrossing.com
I've left about 50 books on the subway... I hope that helps! [futurebird, May 23 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

(?) Baked. http://www.futureof...ies/storyReader$356
[mrthingy, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

(?) SF-Books.com www.sf-books.com
the original online version [simonj, Nov 12 2007]

this is a going concern http://www.paperbackswap.com/
this is a going concern [popbottle, Dec 27 2014]

and this too http://www.titletrader.com/
and bookmooch and bookcrossing [popbottle, Dec 27 2014]


       This is not a bad idea but the risk is that some joker will get a kick out of putting some pretty dodgey books into the system. Prehaps this would be best done in a labour intensive way by someone who would otherwise be undergound anyway due to homeless or a need to beg for money.
Aristotle, Oct 11 2001

       The barcode scanning (linked to an ISBN database) could be used to weed out the dodgy books...
hippo, Oct 11 2001

       <obligatory "it can be used for unwanted porno" post>
mrkillboy, Oct 11 2001

       Good concept hippo. The main problem would obviously be with the 'Return' window. I suspect that people putting pornography in it would be the least of your problems. I can envisage a number of other things that could be put in (and you'll not need a barcode to identify them).
I suggest that the 'swapping' element be dropped (eventually everyone will just be recycling the same tatty old relics anyway) and just have a second-hand book vending machine, just like the big glass-fronted 'cabinet' style ones, topped up by the nearest second-hand book shop.
Of course, that's not going to make it any easier to get rid of your mountain of old books. So I issue you with this challenge - the next time you finish a book on the train, just stand up and shout the following:"Excuse me everyone, but I've just finished my book. Does anyone want to swap?". If it works I'll buy you a beer.
DrBob, Oct 11 2001

       I just tried it and 3 men threatened to beat me up, 2 people swore at me and an old lady got her dog to piddle on my shoes.
CasaLoco, Oct 11 2001

       DrBob's approach is probably more workable but not as much fun to design.   

       What if you got some sort of credit for the returned book? Say, you put 50p in and a book, and get a new book. You also get one of those flimsy barcode/magstripe tokens that some subways use, which you keep. Later, if someone chooses the book you put in, some amount of value is added to that magstripe, which you can use for future book exchanges. This won't keep people from putting garbage in the machine but it will encourage people to put non-garbage in the machine.
wiml, Oct 11 2001

       Yeah, PeterSealy, but there has to be some sort of unspoken honor system for that kind of swap shelf to work, otherwise some unscrupulous barstid just takes all the books down to the used book buyers and pockets the cash.   

       One could also set up a franchise of little exchange counters staffed by kindly older people--pay a quarter and exchange a book. But that's harder to implement on busses and such.
Dog Ed, Oct 11 2001

       Why not just encourage local newstands to put out a used book shelf and oversee trades for the 50p? The problems with the machine that hippo proposes are 1) what if, after turning in a book, you don't find one that you like? 2) how do you design an efficient machine to handle a multitude of books that the show one at a time? 3) the number of books held by the machine would have to be limited or it would have to be fairly large.
Susen, Oct 11 2001

       I like this idea...I read so quickly that I burn out books in a hurry...<Managed to read all of 'Shogun' in one 8 hour plane flight, when I'd expected it to last at least a couple of days...> Would be nice to be able to trade or at least get cheap books when you have to spend three hours sitting around when a plane is delayed.   

       I dunno about the tradein thing, as the others have said, but something like the spiral snack machine shouldn't be too hard to implement. It should as is be able to handle paperback sized things...Maybe drop the tradeins off in a box or something instead?   

       <grin> Only problem with my idea is that all the good books would be hung up behind a copy of 'Dianetics'...
StarChaser, Oct 11 2001

       Good point StarChaser. The initial barcode scan would reject any book by L Ron Hubbard.
Another thought: The spirally-thing multiple choice type vending machine [StarChaser] alludes to might be a better way to implement this. Doing it this way would also meet [Susen]'s first objection by letting you see lots of books at once.
hippo, Oct 12 2001

       How about a machine similar to the penny games in seaside amusement arcades whereby you push a book into the slot in an attempt to dislodge another book, the art being to insert said book in such a way to dislodge the book you want?
Machines would obviously have to be prestocked. Though I can see this ending in all sorts of commuter paperback-exchange rage..
The_Englishman_Abroad, Oct 12 2001

       I just had a related idea of my own...   

       ...but I decided not to post it as a seperate idea.   

       How about airport libraries? Make it a chain that 'lives' in airports. Charge replacement cost for a book, plus some for overhead. Take the book out here, return it there. Get credit for donating used books in decent shape toward your membership. If you decide to keep a book, you forfeit your deposit, and have to re-pay. If you want more than one book at a time <as I would> then you pay the base plus extra for the others.   

       If you end up with a surplus of books here and need them there, offer people a free membership to take a bag of books with them. Probably pre-sealed and timestamped at the airport to avoid problems with being searched...
StarChaser, Oct 13 2001

       They rent DVD movies in airports that way (along with players), and they sell books in airports... I don't see why they couldn't combine the two and do exactly what you suggest, StarChaser.
egnor, Oct 16 2001

       Can you think of a better way for Amazon to get into "real space" then by putting up bookstores in airports? Airports are notoriously difficult to put business in - both because of security and local politics, but Amazon has the clout to do it.   

       Maybe this is another idea, but what about simply trading in used books like they do with used CD's: 3 or 4 for your to 1 of theirs. I'm sure that there has to be used book stores that already do this - but there would be much higher foot traffic and turn around at airports.
marc1919, Oct 17 2001

       I read that something like a quarter of all paperback books sold in the UK are sold at Gatwick Airport, so selling new books in airports is not really a new idea.
[StarChaser]'s 'Airport libraries' idea would work though as it would have staff which could security-check the books (for hidden knives, etc.).
[TEA]'s 'Book waterfall' is a great idea. Lots of fun. This has the feature that it would aways generate a surplus of books, as - well, that's how those machines work, isn't it?
hippo, Oct 18 2001

       Starchaser: on a recent cross-country trip I noticed that an idea very similar to your anno has been baked. One large chain of truck stops (Love's Country Stores) will rent audiobooks, which can be returned at any other stop in the chain. This makes a lot of sense, as truck drivers spend even more time cooped up in their trucks than air travelers do in their airplanes.   

       If I were Bruce Sterling, I would now predict the emergence of a highly-literate subculture of long haul truck drivers, who will (in ten years or so) become the artistic and intellectual driving force [heh] of our society. (But I'm not Bruce Sterling, so I won't.)
wiml, Feb 18 2002

       BookCrossing IS a lot of fun (see link by futurebird) - I just caught my 1st book. If you like hippos idea, try this. Can be quite an adventure.
thecat, May 10 2003

       The 'airport library' is a smashing idea.   

       Call me names, but I've basically treated various airport bookstores the same way since I've been a frequent flyer and speed reader all my life. I buy an Agatha Christie paperback -- believe me, 99% of airport bookstores have ACs -- then exchange it for another at the end of the layover/next stop. ACs really are perfect since "oh, I just realized I've already read this one" is an extremely compelling excuse what with all the alternate titles.   

       Considering how much airports charge for things like food, not to mention the airport taxes, I feel it's a fair if covert deal.
wintersmith, May 10 2003

       Covert is good. Covert is right. I love sticking it to The (corporate) (wo)/Man.
thecat, Jun 24 2003

       A trust-based system similar to this exists in most marinas. I like the general idea of this, but think that [Susen]'s newstand idea is likely easier to implement.
Worldgineer, Jan 26 2005

       Book exchange exists in many backpacker hostels. Some have the books behind the reception counter so there is some control over it.
Pellepeloton, Sep 30 2006

       I know a guy that, if he had this, would probably trade my library books. Besides, I belive some places have a barter system that functions like [Susen]'s idea.
Shadow Phoenix, Nov 12 2007

       Had similar if not the same idea   

       Paperback and newspaper vending machines activated by library cards and quarters. Positioned at commuter train stations.   

       Machines also accepting back used reading materials and checked out library books. Pleasant music wafts from da machine.   

popbottle, May 08 2013

       Aw, paper books. How quaint.
Worldgineer, May 08 2013

       Aristotle's idea to employ people who would be homeless, is a good idea. Such people would be able to take the time to sit and read books, and hopefully provide good suggestions to visitors as to what books to swap to next.
mofosyne, Dec 27 2014

       Wow, [futurebird]'s link from 2002 is still good, and a highly amusing idea - kind of a "Where's George" for books. I'll have to try that.
normzone, Dec 27 2014


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