Short Story Dispenser makes its debut in Steamboat, the first in Colorado |

Short Story Dispenser makes its debut in Steamboat, the first in Colorado

Bud Werner Memorial Library is the first location in Colorado to offer the Short Story Dispenser, a new permanent acquisition. (Courtesy photo by Jennie Lay)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In today’s all-too familiar pandemonium of everyday life, free time is often a distant daydream. Reading? For many, that too seems far fetched.

The French publishing company, Short Édition, has a solution — one that offers intellectual breaks of spontaneous prose combined with passion. It’s known internationally as “The Short Story Dispenser,” and it’s inspiring a community of readers with more than 100,000 short stories by 9,000 authors from classic literary short works, such as Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf.

“Stories elevate our lives,” said Jennie Lay, adult programs coordinator for the Bud Werner Memorial Library. “Maybe you don’t have time for a novel on a day you run into the library to grab a DVD, check your email or bring your kid to a STEM program. But, I bet you’ve got time for a one-minute story. The dispenser is fun, engaging and always a surprise.”

Steamboat Springs is now on the list of locations where the Short Story Dispenser can be found. It’s a new, permanent acquisition by the library, and it’s also the first one in the state of Colorado.

Tailored for busy readers on the go, these free stories are delivered with the push of a button on the dispenser, which is located near the library’s front desk.

The dispenser was provided to the community in memory of Wayne E. Swanson, a lover of stories.

“I think the first dispenser I read about was in a subway or a train station — but it was in French,” Lay said. “It’s one of those cool things we kept an eye on, and a couple years later, the option for English-language stories in the U.S. has now popped up.”

Created in 2011, Short Édition has generated more than 19 million stories and now has more than 230,000 reader subscribers to its participatory platform,, designed for reading on the move.

“These are real stories — not some kind of A.I. or Mad Libs or weird word algorithm,” Lay said. “They are actual written, curated stories on random rotation.”

Users of the story dispenser can select a one-minute, three-minute or five-minute story with the press of a button. Dispensing a different story each time, stories are printed on a “lively papyrus,” resembling a receipt, on eco-friendly paper and no ink.

“Modern lives seem to be one long, hectic, distracted, hang-on-to-your-hat story,” Lay said. “The Short Story Dispenser offers a brief minute — or three — of escape.”

How does it work?

  1. Decide if you want a one-minute, three-minute or five-minute story.
  2. Push the button.
  3. Grab the free eco-friendly scroll that emerges from the front slot and read your story.

“There is an ever growing and changing catalog of tens of thousands of stories,” Lay said.

According to Lay, adding temporary themes happens at the venue’s discretion, giving the library the option to change story themes. Currently, the story dispenser at the Steamboat library is offering “Ten Days of Love Stories” through Thursday, Feb. 14 in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

On Feb. 15, the dispenser’s romantic theme will return to its regular catalog of thousands of contemporary tales.

“This is yet another interesting, unusual way to promote our mission of promoting enrichment, education and escape for everyone,” Lay said. “Maybe this will even compel some local writers to submit their own stories to Short Édition for consideration.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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