TRAVELMAN resurfaces in London :-)

From: Rohit Khare (
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 19:56:10 PST

London vending machines offer poems

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By Jill Lawless

Feb. 23, 2001 |

LONDON (AP) -- On the teeming platform at South Kensington
Underground station, vending machines offer a choice of a chocolate
bar, a pack of gum -- or classic love poems.

The slim, map-sized poetry volume, which sells for about $1.50, is
the work of Travelman, a publisher determined to bring quality
literature to the huddled masses on London's subway system.

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The only problem is finding a working machine.

Three machines were installed at South Kensington station, in the
heart of the city's museum district, in December. Now one is jammed
and another cannot be found. The third machine dutifully swallows a
pound coin and dispenses a mini-anthology of verses by Sappho,
Shakespeare and many authors in between.

The poetry collection went on sale for Valentine's Day, but
Travelman's staple is short fiction. Company founder Alexander Waugh,
grandson of satirist Evelyn Waugh, dreamed of producing individual
stories on a single folding sheet for space-strapped commuters.

Over the last three years, Waugh and his collaborators, Mollett and
Ned Guinness, Earl of Iveagh and heir to the Guinness brewery
fortune, have published 42 titles.

Drawing on Waugh's literary connections -- his late father Auberon
Waugh edited the Literary Review and wrote for the satirical magazine
Private Eye -- Travelman has assembled a heavyweight editorial panel
that includes the writers Martin Amis, Beryl Bainbridge and Muriel

The imprint's crisply printed leaflets, color-coded into series that
include romance, crime and adventure, focus on classy and classic
authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, Graham Greene
and, naturally, Evelyn Waugh.

"We're unashamedly setting out to make people feel reading these
stories will be an improving experience," said Waugh.

The stories were sold initially at bookstore checkout counters and
railway station newsstands. Realizing the dream of literature from a
machine has been a struggle, and so far about 1,000 volumes have been
sold that way.

Commercial vending machines were developed in the 19th century to
sell chewing gum; now they market everything from cigarettes to live
bait. In Tokyo -- the world's automated-vending capital -- machines
sell everything from beer to CDs to packets of rice.

But Travelman's book-vending machine presents special problems.
Adapted from a Post Office stamp-vending machine, it's slim, about 4
feet tall and painted a discreet green and cream that is overshadowed
by garish chocolate machines nearby. And it can only display a single
title at a time.

"You need to have three titles so people can make a choice," Mollett
concedes. "I've never come across a vending machine that didn't give
you a choice -- unless it's selling stamps."

On South Kensington's busy platform, few commuters and tourists
notice the machine displaying a purple pamphlet with a pink heart.

"I think the idea of short stories is a good one," said Linda Salmon,
visiting London from Devon in southwest England. "But that heart
doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It makes it look like a condom

Undaunted, Travelman has applied to install machines at 30 more sites
on the Underground, and hopes to have 50 in place by year's end.

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