When you're on the go, what essentials might you find yourself in need of? Not just need, but urgently require, that a quick and convenient dispensation is necessitated? A cold drink? A quick bite? Pack of chips?
Well now BooksActually, the independent bookstore fittingly located at local hepcat hangout Tiong Bahru and home to the largest collection of Singapore literary publications, adds in their two cents.
Unsurprisingly, it's books they say — books are essential, and how enthusiastically we must agree.
As of June 3rd, Books Actually has installed two of their three spanking new book vending machines, all up and dispensing at The National Museum Singapore and The Singapore Visitors Centre.
Each machine can hold up to 120 to 150 books and carries a selection of local writers of varying genres and formats, ranging from children's books, to poetry, to CD's by local artists such as Aspidistrafly and Charlie Lim.
"The machine is our way of bringing Singapore Literature out of our bookstore and closer to the public,"
- Ms Renee Ting, Manager at BooksActually
These vending machines were inspired by Penguin Books’ own Penguincubator pocket book dispenser set up in London in the 1930's, where each pocket book would have set you back 25 cents a pop.
Nowadays, vending machine books aren't quite as cheap, but still affordably priced around $10 to $30.
BooksActually owner Kenny Leck told Channel NewsAsia that the essence of this project is increased awareness and accessibility, which in his opinion is lacking given the scarcity of bookstores in Singapore. The ultimate goal is to have more and more vending machines across the island, ideally placed in train stations, an ethos some Penguin Book readers may find familiar (flip to the back of your Penguin published book and read the origins story printed above the blurb).
With this new and novel (heh heh) addition to Singapore's repertoire of vending machines, it got us at the Bandwagon office wondering — what other products/services do we hope to see appearing in vending machines in the near future?
Looking to other countries for prospective ideas, we were thoroughly taken by some particularly innovative concepts. Japan's fresh lettuce vending machine, Paris' baguette dispenser and Dubai's gold vending machine were amongst our favorites. But what could Singapore music lovers do with?
Here are a few vending machine ideas that we think ought to already exist in Singapore:
1. Local CDs
Including old and new artists, this vending machine would dispense all sorts of local goodies spanning all genres and eras. It should be constantly updated to ensure the newest releases are featured, keeping all of Singapore on their toes, and help lesser known bands get some needed exposure.
2. All manner of international and local music publications
Stocking reputed publications like NME, Fader, Pitchfork, and maybe Rolling Stone, this vending machine will offer a wide array of music magazines so Singaporeans can get the low down on what's happening on an international scale. It's hard enough to find a local vendor with a decent selection, let alone one that is conveniently located, and we think vending machines are the answer to these concerns.
By "recorder", we are indeed referring to that prolific flute like instrument — to be installed outside every primary school, this is for all the kids who forgot to pack it in their backpacks one too many times.
4. Band Merch
Distance shouldn't hinder our access to merchandise by our favourite artists. Not all of us can fly to New York City and line up for 15 hours to buy a Life of Pablo snapback for USD$40, so at least console us with easy access to other more affordable shirts, caps, beanies, shoes and figurines. The machine could stock up on merch of bands with upcoming concerts in Singapore so fans can actually wear the appropriate gear to the appropriate gig. It'll do wonders at concert venues.
5. Earphone splitters
An initiative we will be proposing to the government in order to further their efforts in encouraging coupling, these vending machines could be located at various romantic locations such as parks, restaurants, HDB void decks and bus stops.
6. Vinyl Surprise!
A vending machine full of curated records (shout-out), the catch is that the records are bundled up in some sort of mysterious, opaque packaging. Buyers answer a couple of simple questions for the machine to gauge their preferences, and it dispenses a mystery package according to their taste. An instant version of "Vinyl Me, Please", and far more exciting than Spotify/Pandora surfing.
7. Rubber Ear Tips
There should be one of these at every bus stop and MRT station, providing a selection that can fit any earphone of whatever shape, colour, or size. There is no dread like pulling out your earphones in preparation for a crowded hour long bus ride home, only to discover that you've somehow misplaced the little rubber attachment for your ear-buds.
You desperately rummage through your bag to no avail, and once giving up the search, resign yourself to silently weeping all the way home as you succumb to the looming existential crisis that now seizes your thoughts, as you have too much time to think and not enough to distract you. These machines will literally save your life.