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Penguin Book Vending Machine 16x9
Yudi Wu/Penguin Random House

Penguin’s Book Vending Machine

When Did You Last Read A Book On The Train?

Imagine sitting in a hushed train carriage where all that can be heard is the sound of the train on the tracks and the occasional rustle of paper as pages are turned.

If you have been on a train lately, you will be aware of how unlikely this scene is. As digital infiltrates almost every aspect of our lives, it’s hard to imagine that trains weren’t always filled with the sounds of phones ringing and people shouting down them to be heard above the general hum, or passengers using their commute to watch their favourite boxset – without headphones.

However, it hasn’t deterred Penguin Random House who, in partnership with Exeter UNESCO City of Literature and Great Western Railway, has installed a book vending machine at Exeter St David’s Station. Commuters will be able to choose from a variety of titles, with the selection of books available changing on a regular basis.

The installation is not random (no pun intended), however, as it was at this very station back in 1934 that publisher Allen Lane saw a gap in the market for good and affordable books. After witnessing the poor array of reading matter available to travellers at the time, he established Penguin Books within the year, publishing many classic titles as well as new books, all in affordable and portable paperback.

While the vending machine at Exeter St David is currently Penguin Random House’s only book vending machine (although a second installation is planned at a location yet to be revealed), it certainly isn’t the first. Penguin originally installed a book vending machine at Charing Cross station in 1937, although, at the time, it wasn’t a popular move with local booksellers. Today, however, bookshops are comparatively few and far between, and it might be said that anything that encourages people to pick up a book instead of their phone for a while might be regarded as a positive thing by today’s bookshops.

Over recent years, there has been an expectation that we are all connected and available, seemingly at all times of day and night. When travelling by train for work purposes, we might be under pressure to use the journey time to check in on emails or catch up on reports; if travelling for a social engagement, we tend to pass the journey time by looking at our phones. Our eyes are drawn to those small digital screens but, when we eventually look up, do we feel it’s been time well spent? What if we gave our eyes a rest from electronics and did something else instead?

Why It’s Good To Switch Off From Digital

A new report by Mintel has identified a trend of ‘hyper fatigue’, resulting from the “onslaught of news from a number of different sources combined with the increasing stress of everyday living [which] is having a real impact on consumers, causing uncertainty, stress, financial issues, and major life shifts.”

Director of Mintel Trends, APAC, Matthew Crabbe, says: “In the next five years, expect brands to establish boundaries to bring order to the influx of information and initiatives to enable consumers to form healthy connections with resources in the technology, wellness and leisure spaces.” [1]

Pick Up A Paperback

Travelling by train is the ideal opportunity to switch off from devices. If gazing out of the window doesn’t appeal, then and why not pick up a book instead? The benefits of reading, even just for a few minutes, can be significant. A recent study found that as little as six minutes of reading can reduce stress by as much as 68% [2], and there is plenty of research to indicate that reading a paper book brings greater benefits than digital books, from being easier on the eyes to improved comprehension of the information being read.

Reading a book can also:

  • Improve sleep quality, which helps to contribute to brain health
  • Decrease depression. Fiction books in particular have been found to be more effective in managing depression than non-fiction ones, linked to their ability to reduce stress, improve mood and increase empathy
  • Expand knowledge and understanding of the world around us by opening us to different points of views and experiences
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate – the effect on the body of reading a book is similar to that of meditation
  • Makes falling asleep easier by helping to relax the body and mind
  • Reduce stress by providing an escape from worries, even if for a short time; fiction is especially effective as it lets us enter a different world.
  • Increase vocabulary and understanding of language by introducing us to new words and phrases – and reading a book is apparently far more effective in this regard than other types of reading material.
  • Increase attention span and concentration, improving focus and productivity.

So, even if you’re not lucky enough to have a paperback vending machine at your local train station, pack a paperback and give yourself permission to switch off – even if only for six minutes.

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