Calling all bookworms: Here’s how to get a free short story at the airport

Nov 2, 2019

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You may spend more time looking at your phone these days than reading a book, magazine or newspaper when you travel. But some airports around the country are trying to entice passengers to take a minute, or three, to read a free, randomly chosen story printed out at a kiosk.

In October, Oakland International Airport (OAK) installed an on-demand short story dispenser in each of its two terminals. Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI installed a short story dispenser last month as well.

The kiosks, invented by French Company, Short Edition, allow walk-up users to request a free print-out of a story that will take an estimated one minute, three minutes or five minutes to read. There are also short stories just for kids.

Short Edition’s database of more than 10,000 stories includes brief classics by well-known authors such as Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce and Edgar Allan Poe along with a growing list of work by modern day writers who submit their short stories for consideration and receive royalties each time one of their stories is printed out.

To get a story, a kiosk user simply selects a story length, pushes a button and, in less than a minute, a printed story unfurls on eco-friendly paper that uses no ink or cartridge.

Short story dispensers may soon pop up in many more airports, but for now you’ll also find these fun (and educational) kiosks in the Virtual Library in the Terminal D-C connector at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); in the atrium area of Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport (courtesy of the Akron-Summit County Public Library and the Knight Foundation); and in Lansing, Michigan at the Capital Region International Airport (LAN).

In Canada, the short story dispenser at Edmonton International Airport (YEG) includes the work of more than 100 local authors, and in France, you’ll find short story dispensers at the Paris- Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) T2 (in the rail area), at the Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS) and at the Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE).

Have a hankering to read a short story right now but not traveling through any of these airports? You can read thousands of one, three or five-minute short stories on the Short Edition website any time.

No plane ticket necessary.

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All photos by the author.

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