In our discussions about the future of books, it is easy to focus on the production of the book as an object. Somehow when we talk about e-books, we end talking only about Gutenberg and printing, when the biggest changes are about brick-and-mortar stores and distribution. Literature, as an industry, has been dominated by its adherence to traditional distribution schemes, moved as a product like bags of cashews or detergent or cardboard. Books came out of factories, got packed into boxes, and loaded onto trucks, which drove across the country and delivered them to stores. Or at least that's how it seemed to go in the pre-digital age.
Which is one reason that the Penguincubator is so interesting. As recently described by publisher and author James Bridle, this book vending machine was created by the selfsame man who perfected the cheap paperback.
"Lane's other invention, alongside the cheap, quality paperback, was the Penguincubator, first installed outside Henderson's (the "Bomb Shop") at 66 Charing Cross Road," Bridle writes. The book vending machine "signaled his intention to take the book beyond the library and the traditional bookstore, into railway stations, chain stores and onto the streets."