On Subway Book Vending Machines

On a recent trip to São Paulo, my hometown, I took my girlfriend to clothing shop on an early morning, and then on my way back home I saw that subway was really crowd. I decided to wait a little bit on the station, maybe work on a project from my phone, but then I saw one of those book vending machines. Checked the books out and found two interesting reads. I had a few coins and that summed up two reais. I put the coins into the machine and pressed 55, my book’s code. The screw-ish holders started swirling and then my book came forward, but didn’t fall. It got stuck.


That’s a very interesting thing in São Paulo subway stations. They sell books for over two reais. That’s really cheap. Spreading culture on a stressful place cheaper than a Coxinha. I like when I see someone reading a book on its way to work, I always try to catch what book that is. Obviously for that price, they can’t have the latest bestsellers. There are some classic books, some very important texts. But along with it you find lots of pseudoscience and mystical books, self-help as well.

I looked at my stuck book analytically, looked at people around — all of them looking back at me, maybe it’s not that common to buy books at subways after all; or more likely they were wondering what I would do — and then I tried to tilt the machine a bit. That didn’t work. I kept looking at it a little bit more, but soon I gave up.

I asked a subway staff guy and he said that I should call this number. Ok then. I took a picture of the number and just sat down on a seat close to the machine to wait for the subway to get less crowd, working on my project.

The Subjection of Women (A Sujeição das Mulheres), by John Stuart Mill.

Some guy stopped by, took some look at the books, saw my book laying there stuck, looked around, then went away. A woman came, briefly looked at the stuck book, but then also left.

That was interesting. They clearly saw that it was now for free. Just a little effort to make it fall and then they would read The Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill. Maybe that isn’t an interesting topic. Perhaps an Astrology book for free would be more appealing.

That situation was fun to watch and wonder. But it did not take long. Suddenly the most unexpectable thing happend. A staff guy appeared to feed the machine! So I gently asked him to take that book for me and he did.

I even started to read on my way back, but thinking about it all was even more interesting at that point. If I found a Feng Shui book stuck, would I try to get it for free? Probably not. But is it really the point?

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