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BYU Vending Machines Dispense Short Stories

PROVO, Utah – They are far from the typical vending machines found on college campuses.

At Brigham Young University, two new dispensers are offering a different kind of fare — short stories.

“I thought, ‘what a brilliant way to not be staring at your phone all the time!’” said Leslee Thorne-Murphy, an English professor and associate dean at the BYU College of Humanities.

Thorne-Murphy said she first saw the Short Edition dispensers in an urban mall in London and helped bring the idea to BYU as part of an initiative launched by the College of Humanities.

BYU English professor Leslee Thorne-Murphy got the idea for the short story vending machines from a mall in London. (Andrew Adams, KSL TV)

Three contactless buttons allow a student to select either a 1, 3, or 5-minute read, and the machine prints out a story selected at random from its database.

Stories range from famous works to student-submitted stories that have been added through writing contests.

“Short Edition is running a contest for university students at all the campuses that have these dispensers,” Thorne-Murphy said.

In addition to students competing for monetary prizes and the potential to have their stories published, Thorne-Murphy said BYU is competing with other universities ranging from the Harvard Medical School to William & Mary to Michigan State University and the University of Iowa in terms of numbers of student submissions.

“If we win, we get a free dispenser!” Thorne-Murphy said.

The two dispensers—one permanently situated in the library and the other in the middle of a campus tour that began near the Cougareat in the Wilkinson Center—have already proven to be a popular attraction for students.

Thorne-Murphy said the number of stories distributed is already in the thousands.

“I think it’s really cool, especially to share people’s ideas that don’t usually get shared,” student Hayden Taylor said. “Most of us don’t go strolling around, like, poetry websites or short story websites—if those exist but I’m assuming they do—so this is a very easily accessible way that lots of people around campus and other places can learn about new stories.”

Student Michael Camit said he also liked the idea behind the dispensers.

“There’s a lot of guys out there who like to write but they don’t really have a way to get it out,” Camit said. “There’s no guarantee that someone gets published or anything, but I like this because it gives people a shot, you know.”

Thorne-Murphy said she hoped the story dispensers would continue to inspire those on campus.

“Why go to a candy dispenser when you can have a piece of good literature instead!” Thorne-Murphy said. “It’s a great alternative!”

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