A local book company last weekend introduced to the public its maiden book vending machine on a bustling street in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
The machine, operated by Saigon Books Company and is located at the Sense Market on Pham Ngu Lao Street in District 1, has 25 available titles, with the stock set to be updated on a weekly basis.
Readers can select books and pay by cash. Saigon Books said the machine will support payment by Internet banking two weeks after launch.
As the machine only accepts banknotes of VND10,000, VND20,000, VND50,000 and VND100,000 denominations, the book prices are all rounded to the nearest whole figures, such as VND50,000 (US$2.1) or VND70,000 ($3), to facilitate the purchase process.
“This book vending machine serves the demand of office workers and residents and tourists in the downtown area,” Nguyen Tuan Quynh, director of Saigon Books, said.
“It also helps us save the costs for premises and personnel required to open a physical bookstore.”
However, the book-selling machine also has some limitations, according to users who have tried it.
“My book got stuck midway from the display chamber and was not able to fall into the take-out slot,” recalled Nguyen Tran Phuong Uyen, a student of Van Lang University in District 1.
Uyen said she had to call for help from a maintenance worker to retrieve the book.
“This kind of problem upsets buyers as you can lose money without getting your book,” Uyen added.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Cam, a homemaker in Binh Thanh District, did not decide to make any purchase from the book vending machine after much inquiry and consideration.
“I like the feeling of having the book in my hand, reading about the author or the synopsis,” Cam explained.
“Furthermore, though modern, this machine limits readers’ choice to only 25 titles.
“This is not to mention that if something goes wrong with the pages of the book, I cannot replace it with another.”
Addressing these concerns, Quynh said the company has set up several hotlines to receive any complaint from customers and is ready to provide prompt assistance when needed.
“The machine is equipped with a LED display to provide information about the books and their authors,” he said.
“In the near future, we will add a shelf of real sample books next to every machine, so readers can check before making a purchase.”