Instant books? Singapore welcomes its first book vending machines

Instant books? Singapore welcomes its first book vending machines

BooksActually brings local literature outside bookstores with its first machines located at the National Museum of Singapore and Orchard Road

books actually

SINGAPORE: Planning to catch up on your reading? Why not head down to one of BooksActually’s new vending machines and buy a book.

The independent bookstore on Friday (Jun 3) unveiled two book vending machines at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) and at the Singapore Visitor Centre along Orchard Road.

A third one is scheduled to be installed at the Goodman Arts Centre later this month.

books vending machines

Just like your typical vending machine, books will be dispensed with some handy cash and the press of a button.

Each machine carries about 120 to 150 books, with between 20 and 22 titles by Singapore publishers available at any single time.

For instance, the initial batch of books at the vending machine at NMS ranges from the Sherlock Sam children’s book series to Troy Chin’s The Resident Tourist graphic novels to poetry and fiction titles from authors such as Alfian Sa’at and Alvin Pang.

Meanwhile, the vending machine at the Singapore Visitor Centre also includes some DVDs, such as Tan Pin Pin’s award-winning documentary Singapore Gaga, and CDs by musical acts such as ASPIDISTRAFLY and Charlie Lim.

The machines cost S$9,900 each and were set up with a grant from SPRING Singapore. Each one also features wrap-around artwork by local artists and illustrators Alvin Mark Tan, Speak Cryptic and Odelia Tang.


While these are the first book vending machines in Singapore, BooksActually owner Kenny Leck pointed out that they have been around for some time in places such as Japan. He was inspired to set these up in Singapore by Penguin Books’ own Penguincubator, which was introduced in London in the 1930s.

“The whole idea is about accessibility and eyeballs,” explained Mr Leck, who also runs BooksActually’s publishing arm Math Paper Press.

“There are not enough bookstores in Singapore, so we’ve previously also distributed (our books) to places such as (retail stores) Cat Socrates and Naiise’s pop-up stores. You have a different sort of demographic in these places.”

While Mr Leck doesn’t necessarily see the vending machines as a “pot of gold” in terms of sales, it’s yet another way of promoting Singapore literature, he said.

books vending machine

“These vending machines could be a visual touchpoint. You may not buy (a book) but we’ll let you know these exist. And from there, there could be more possibilities. We start with visual awareness: Books where you see a local author’s name,” said Mr Leck, who has initiated some unusual marketing campaigns in the past, such as placing books in barbershops and hair salons to promote local literature.

Right now, he is concentrating on getting these first three machines up and running smoothly. But there are also plans to include a cashless payment option in the future — and hopefully see more of such vending machines pop up elsewhere.

“The ultimate place we want to put them are at train stations. BooksActually cannot be at Jurong MRT station every day, but it would be perfect if there was a vending machine there.”

Source: CNA/cy