P-p-p-pick up a Penguin at St David’s Station

A book vending machine has been installed in Exeter St David’s station in Exeter

The story begins in 1934 when Sir Allen Lane was returning to London after a visit to see his buddy, Agatha Christie. Sir Allen was waiting at the station for a train and found himself bookless – only Victorian reprints and magazines were on sale at the bookstand. Sir Allen decided that books should be available to everyone and Penguin Books was born the following year.

2nd November 1960:  British publisher Sir Allen Lane (1902 – 1970) displays a copy of D H Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, which was the subject of a celebrated obscenity trial.  He resigned from the Bodley Head in 1935 to found the massively successful Penguin Books Ltd, who published the controversial book.  (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Sir Allen also dreamt up an early book vending machine that he called The Penguincubator, a futuristic machine on Charing Cross Road that offered a selection of Penguin titles.

Fast forward to 2021

Exeter UNESCO City of Literature’s Executive Director, Anna Cohn Orchard approached Penguin with the idea for a book vending machine at the site of Penguin’s origin.

“Thanks to the collaboration between Penguin Books, Great Western Railway, Graddons Vending, and Bookbag, we are thrilled to have helped Sir Allen Lane’s vision to come full circle with the installation of Penguin’s first ever book vending machine at Exeter St Davids!


Pic by Stephanie Darkes

Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director at Exeter City of Literature

“I grew up in Exeter, but didn’t learn about Penguin’s history until, ironically, I was working in publishing in New York. When I took on my current role, I knew I wanted to promote Exeter and Devon’s interesting, and often hidden, literary history to a much wider audience. This incredible invention, made possible by Penguin’s enthusiastic support and the work of a local vending machine company, will not only make reading more accessible to everyone who steps foot onto St Davids, but it will shine a light on how Devon has inspired so many great figures in the literary world.”

Zainab Juma, Head of Brand at Penguin

“When Exeter City of Literature approached us about the Penguin Books vending machine, we knew immediately that it was the perfect way to celebrate our origins. Whiling away your time with a book is one of the great pleasures of train travel and this machine is just what our founder Allen Lane would have wanted to see as he set off on his journey. We’re especially pleased that the vending machine will benefit Bookbag, a local independent bookstore, and Exeter City of Literature who do brilliant work celebrating Exeter’s literary history and making books and reading more accessible in the local community.”

Amanda Burns, GWR Director of Sales & Marketing

“We are proud of our long affiliation with Penguin Books, which dates back nearly 90 years. This book vending machine is a wonderful addition to Exeter St Davids station and is already proving popular with customers. Many of us love a good book to read on a relaxing railway journey to an iconic destination and this installation means you can pick up a Penguin Book just before you travel.”

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