We need an audio version of this innovation for people in rural settings who have long drives to work. This story tells us:

 “Every single day,” says Paresh Raichura, “I’m on the lookout for something new to read.” On his hour-long commute to Canary Wharf, where he works for the Financial Ombudsman, he picks up Time Out or a local paper or the freesheet Metro, but says: “I’ve stopped reading all the long novels I used to read.”

Why?

He shrugs. “Too long. Lack of time. Once you start, you can’t stop.”

And so he is delighted by a new initiative close to his workplace where, at the push of a button, he is delivered a bitesize short story, printed on to a long spool of paper, that takes no more than a few minutes to read.

 “I’m old-fashioned, I like something to hold in my hands,” he says approvingly, looking at the scrolls. He has printed off one each of the one-, three- and five-minute stories offered by the new fiction vending machine, “just to test them out”.

There can’t be many people who feel they need more things to command their time and attention. But for those who do feel insufficiently entertained, distracted or assailed, the Canary Wharf estate has installed three “short story stations” in the shopping malls and green spaces around the commercial district.

Books are too long, the development offers by way of explanation, citing research that more than a third of Britons have abandoned a novel or nonfiction work in the past year. Give us a something that we can read in the time it takes to hum a pop song, goes the logic, and we might actually make it to the end.

And to judge by the reaction of early morning commuters this week, they might be on to something – though the fact that the stories are free and print off in a few seconds undoubtedly helps.

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