Center City Coffee Shop Installs Vending Machine For Books
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By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Take two businesses that are struggling with changing tastes, put them together, and you may just get an idea whose time has come.
Patrons at Elixir coffee shop in Center City will be the first to give it a go, tonight, when Nic Esposito, founder of The Head & The Hand publishing in Fishtown, unveils his first vending machine for books.
“Our thought was that, after you buy your cup of coffee, a couple extra dollars is your change, you see this vending machine, you’re killing some time, you don’t want to just stare at your iPhone, checking your email, so you throw two dollars in the machine, you get a nice book, get a good read, go on about your day,” Esposito told KYWnewsradio.
Esposito stumbled on the idea at his uncle’s wedding, when he struck up a conversation with his cousin, Danny Navarra, owner of Navar vending in West Berlin, New Jersey.
Esposito was bemoaning the trials of publishing amidst vast social and technical changes. Navarra said it sounded familiar.
“The vending machine business is in a very similar place as the book industry,” says Esposito. “It served a very good purpose, it still does– people like snacks, people like to read– but it’s definitely been changing a lot.”
“My cousin’s been dealing with that: people wanting to eat healthier, people not wanting to eat out of a vending machine. He was, like, ‘I’m just trying to find something more interesting. People want different things in vending machines, I don’t know what to do.’ I’m like, ‘you should sell books in vending machines.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘that is an awesome idea.’”
“We spent the rest of the cocktail hour talking about this crazy idea.”
They talked about putting kids’ books in school vending machines, joke books in bars that used to vend cigarettes but they settled on selling fiction in a coffee shop and found a willing partner at Elixir.
“The vending machine is new and different and kind of a cool idea so we wanted to try it out,” says manager Josh Croston.
The machine will vend what Esposito calls “chap” books, short for chapter books, slim volumes of short stories by local writers, generated partly through a contest called “Bigger than a Breadbox”– a reference to the size of the vending machine.
Elixir patron Matt Falco was intrigued, even before the machine showed up.
“That’s a really cool concept,” he said, “especially if you stop in for a cup of coffee and you didn’t bring your laptop, go buy a book for cheaper than a cup of coffee… not bad.”