Toronto’s The Monkey’s Paw is an eccentric and delightful emporium for books, printed matter, and other visual and and obscure materials. It’s also “home to the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomizing vending machine for old books.” This remarkable contraption (see above), is claimed to be the “first device of its kind, allowing curious bibliophiles to sample the excitement and mystery of antiquarian-book hunting for the cost of a single $2 coin. The Biblio-Mat was designed and constructed for the Monkey’s Paw by animator Craig Small.”
You can find more details on the creation of the Biblio-Mat in a National Post article here. It’s also obvious from this Vimeo video that the machine’s stock is not truly random – the books have to be hand-loaded and are individually banded with the shop’s logo. And if The Monkey’s Paw really has 112 million titles in stock, I’d be impressed – but that’s probably more a reflection of the total number of titles in circulation.
Considering The Monkey’s Paw’s usual stock, you could be in for some weird and wacky surprises for your $2 – if you ever visit Toronto. Such inventiveness, meanwhile, is every bit what the book world needs to keep indie bookstores in being. Readers and book lovers elsewhere can probably only wish that their own local bookstores were as creative, generous – and plain nuts.