A technology that never quite caught on, at least in the West. I would suggest this might have something to do with the fact people like opening books and flicking through them before they buy; in a vending machine, you can’t even read a book’s blurb, so you’d really want to be sure you knew what you were getting.
Still. I do think the article misses out the biggest–and most ubiquitous–form of this technology. One that, by definition, you’re looking at right now; computers. Given the fact I carry my phone around with me almost constantly, I have at least one book “vending machine” within arm’s reach at all times. Yeah, sometimes the product arrives a few weeks later via the post and sometimes I download it as an ephemeral scrap of bits and bytes then and there, but I’ve still just vended myself a book, day or night, in the office or the mall or in bed or sitting on the loo (all places I have, in fact, bought books within recent memory).
The other missing piece here is POD machines. These aren’t widespread in physical retail locations yet, but I think that’ll change over the next decade as the technology gets better and customer (or maybe I should say author/publisher) acceptance of the end product increases.
Interesting times, and all that.