JetBlue and Random House are not the first to offer books through vending machines. John Geoghegan wrote A Brief History of Book Vending Machines for Huffington Post. In it he described the generally unsuccessful efforts to sell books that way. Some libraries have tried it as well, making it easy to borrow books in such places as train stations and community centers.
What makes the new scheme special is the attempt to put free books into the hands of children who have few or no opportunities to own them. Washington, D.C., is the lucky recipient of book vending machines in Southeast D.C.’s “book deserts”. The Soar with Reading machines are in a Salvation Army, a Safeway, and a Baptist church. Text messages can alert parents to the arrival of new books, and children can return as often as their hunger for a new book makes them itch to go back for more.
Libraries have been providing free access to books for a long time. May that continue forever. But the chance to keep, cherish and re-read a beloved book is not a part of everyone’s life. Every child should have that delicious experience. If this pilot project is a success, a lot more youngsters may discover the pleasure and pride of having their own shelves of beloved books.