Short Story Dispenser Initiative

Frequently Asked Questions

Prepared by Short Edition and PLA

Short Story Dispenser Specifications

  • Dispensers measure about 64 inches tall by 19 inches wide, and weigh about 66 pounds, so they can be easily moved from one location to another.
  • Dispensers are “plug and play” with no technical set-up requirements.
  • Each roll of paper will print between 350–450 stories. Rolls are easily changed.
  • Voltage requirements are 110V, and the power cord is 6.5 feet long.
  • Machines should be located in places that are covered and monitored.
  • More than 80,000 stories in 1-, 3- or 5-minute lengths are printed with the touch of a button. The stories are updated remotely via a 3G connection.

Short Edition Platform

  • Short Edition is a community publisher of short literature (everything that you can read in less than 20min). 
  • They have a web platform where anybody can submit stories (poems, micro-novels, comic strips…), be read and take part in writing competitions.
  • The original French website has gathered more than 200,000 readers, 8,000 authors and 80,000 short stories.
  • Readers can vote for their favorite stories to highlight on the Web, and Short Edition’s editorial board then does the job of a traditional publisher in curating, correcting and publishing selected stories into the dispensers.


  • Pricing is based on a purchase + fee model.
  • Selected libraries will receive up to three dispensers with displayed customized to the library brand, 24 rolls of paper, a two-year warranty, and shipping.
  • Libraries also will receive associated services: a two-year monthly subscription to thousands of stories; two years of 3G connectivity for each machine; assistance with technical support; and access to the monitoring platform that allows administrators to manage the dispenser, customize messaging to be included at the end of each story, track statistics, and receive alerts when a paper roll is ending.
  • Costs for 1–5 dispensers run approximately $11,000 per machine and approximately $195 per month for content subscription and 3G connectivity costs. After the grant period, libraries will be responsible for ongoing subscription and connectivity costs.


  • The “classic offer” includes the customization of the backlit panel to include a library’s branding and logos, and the footer of each printed story.
  • There are no maximum number of characters for the footer customization at the end of the stories. For aesthetic reasons, the recommendation is to ideally limit it to 3 lines or 140 characters.
  • Short Edition can do extra customization of the top of the dispenser and the mouth if needed.

But the customization isn’t just about hardware:

  • With more than 80,000 stories, Short Edition can customize the content to match the library’s audience or an event.
  • Short Edition has different types of catalogs (e.g., children’s stories, romance, humor, classics, science fiction and fantasy, suspense and crime, or a mix), and they will take time to define which one(s) will be adapted by the library.
  • As an example, Short Edition recently configured machines for the French railway company to focus on stories related to the Christmas and Valentine’s Day holidays.

Because of this extensive content in their catalog, Short Edition also can make:

  • Youth story dispensers;
  • Two buttons-dispensers, where users choose between youth stories and general stories.

Paper & Environment

  • The paper used by the machines is certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which means it comes from lands that are sustainably managed.
  • Moreover, it doesn’t contain any BPA and as it is thermal printing, no ink nor cartridges are used.
  • The dispensers work with printing on demand: there are never more printings than necessary. A traditional publisher will print 100 books and only 80% of them will be utilized.
  • Short Edition worked on a qualitative paper to encourage people to keep the story, instead of throwing it away. Short Edition market studies find that the short stories are read 3 to 4 times!

Locating the Dispensers

  • Popular locations associated with the most printings are: shopping centers, airports, train stations, and metro stations
  • Other areas where the dispensers have previously been placed include: gas stations, hospitals, city halls, clothing stores, headquarters of big companies, cafes, restaurants, schools and universities
  • Clients can use the dispensers for educational purposes, to promote events and programming, to reduce the boredom of waiting in lines, reduce the stress of patients in a hospital, as a communication tool, and more. The possibilities are endless, including:
    • Hotels, offering bedtime stories;
    • Train stations, promoting use of the dispensers by working with famous authors that read stories aloud to audiences;
    • Edmonton International Airport, showcasing local authors.
  • For those libraries that are part of a county or regional library system, the dispensers should only be placed within the city in that county/region that is a designated Knight community

How the Dispensers Can Spur Library Use

  • First, the novelty of the dispensers has garnered extensive media interest, and PLA will do a major announcement of the project and selected libraries to kick off the effort. We will work with local libraries to get local media attention, as well.
  • Second, libraries can dynamically customize marketing messages to be attached to each story that is printed that can drive traffic to your website, to databases, to author events, writing classes or promote summer reading or library card sign-up and more. Every story is a marketing opportunity for the library to connect its collections and services to new audiences.
  • Third, PLA and Short Edition will promote and support a national short story content that encourages all readers to also be writers. We hope this will be a great opportunity to tie in with local authors and writing programs to encourage creativity and help bring diverse voices from across your community.
  • Finally, the sky’s the limit! How might a community partner help you reach a new audience? Is there an opportunity for pop-up programming with a new partner? What local leader might be a champion for this project as a fun way to spend more time reading? We know our nation’s public libraries are creative and knowledgeable about your community. We hope you’ll tell US all the great ways the dispensers can support and connect with library services!

Foster Reading

  • Short Edition created the Short Story Dispenser with the objective to promote literature and reading.
  • The dispenser brings culture to unexpected places, and allows anybody to discover, or re-discover reading in an entertaining way.
  • Thanks to Short Edition’s collection of 80,000 stories, they can adapt content to every kind of audience, and that is why they have a broad range of customers, such as hospitals, malls, universities, train stations, airports…

Supporting Writing

  • Short Edition’s community platform allows anybody to become an author by publishing short stories, poems, or even comic strips.
  • These same authors are able to reach more people and get feedback on their work!
  • Today, more than 8,000 authors have been published by Short Edition, and some are read in the United States, including in Francis Ford Coppola’s café!

Authors Royalties

  • Just as a classic publisher, all authors published by Short Edition earns royalties for their work.
  • As a publishing company, it is very important to Short Edition to promote authors and their work to the widest audience possible.

Technical Support

  • Libraries will have access to a technical assistance hotline during business days.
  • If a technical issue arises with a dispenser, Short Edition has remote access to all dispensers and can typically investigate and resolve any issues remotely. 
  • If a technical issue cannot be resolved remotely, Short Edition will schedule and deploy someone to look at the machine on-site.

After the Project

  • Libraries will be able to keep the dispensers after the duration of the project and will be responsible at that point for all subscription, connection and maintenance costs moving forward.
  • If a library does not want to keep the dispensers after the two-year project, Short Edition will arrange with the library to pick up the machines.


  • Initially launched in Grenoble, France, in October 2015, the dispenser quickly gathered the interest of the media.
  • The interest from foreign companies and institutions has been possible thanks to Short Edition’s American “ambassador,” Mr. Francis Ford Coppola. After Coppola decided to install a dispenser in his Zoetrope Cafe in San Francisco, Short Edition received inquiries from all over the world, and that is how they now have dispensers installed in Guinea, Australia, a university in Hong Kong, and in North America.
  • Today 150 dispensers are installed or about to be installed, and to support the launch of Short Edition’s first American dispensers, they recently developed an English web platform where English speaking people will soon be able to write and submit stories, and possibly see their stories published in one of the dispensers around the world!