Long before would-be novelists tapped laptops at Starbucks, certain coffee houses cultivated a literary air.
Elixr, in Center City, has re-booted the tradition with a vending machine for single-chapter "chapbooks" by the Philadelphia craft-publishing house The Head & The Hand Press.
A party to introduce this retro innovation for instant gratification (created by the Camden County, NJ-based Navar Vending Service) is set for Thursday at Elixr.
The first book-selling contraption was invented in 1822, and machines with zippy names like "Penquincubator" and "Book-o-Mat" followed. The latest iteration is "fun and engaging," says Philadelphia author Nathaniel Popkin, whose debut novel, Lion and Leopard, is published by Head & Hand.
While his conventionally bound book is not suitable for machine sales, Popkin welcomes the device as a "good sign" of the city's vital place in the printed word world.
"Philadelphia has a tremendous number of writers, but its publishing industry is hidden," he says. "This is another effort to unhide it and create a sense of excitement that there is a literary culture here."