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© Anna van Kooij

Utrecht gets the Netherlands’ first story machine

22 September 2020

A hot snack from the wall, some cash from the ATM, a bar of chocolate from the vending machine – and soon you’ll be able to get a short story from a machine, too. The Netherlands’ first story machine will be going into service at the start of the ILFU literature festival on 24 September, offering a range of short stories by authors such as Remco Campert, Manon Uphoff, Lévi Weemoedt, Herman Koch, A.L. Snijders, Esther Gerritsen and Maarten Biesheuvel. The stories are provided free of charge. During the ILFU the story machine will be installed at a new location in Utrecht each day; the festival organisers hope that other cities in the Netherlands will soon be following suit.

Film director and café owner Francis Ford Coppola was one of the people to launch the machine. Coppola recounts: “I liked the idea of a vending machine in my café, a dispensing machine that doesn’t dispense potato chips or beer or coffee for money but gives you art. I especially liked the fact that you didn’t put money in it. I’d like to see our city put them everywhere so that while waiting for a bus, or marriage license, or lunch, you could get an artistic lift free of charge.” The French start-up Short Editions responded to Coppola’s wish and developed a machine that prints out a short story from world literature in a few seconds. Today there are around 300 of these machines at train stations, airports, in libraries and schools all over the world.

Now the ILFU is bringing the machine to the Netherlands. Festival director Michaël Stoker takes up the thread: “This year, the ILFU’s motto is ‘We need stories’. A short story can move you, or get you thinking, in the space of a few minutes. Ideal for when you’re out and about. The story machine is a great way of surprising people with literature in unexpected places. And for once not on a screen, but on good old-fashioned paper.” The stories are printed using an inkless method on biologically degradable paper, thus keeping the environmental burden to a minimum.

During the ILFU the machine will be touring through Utrecht, after which it will be located at TivoliVredenburg for a longer period; it may also be featured at other festivals and events. Libraries, venues, schools or transport companies which would also like a story machine permanently installed at their location can contact Michaël Stoker at verhalenmachine[at]

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