Dawn of the BookBots, revolutionising literary access in Malaysia


BookBots, which are book vending machines, will soon be a familiar sight with BookXcess aiming to introduce more of them in Malaysia. This BookBot is located at KidZania, The Curve in Petaling Jaya. Photo: BookXcess

Have you ever found yourself wishing for a bite-sized version of a bookshop when you’re crunched for time, where you can quickly browse to find something you like, buy it, then go?

That’s precisely the idea behind BookBot, the book vending machine from local book retailer BookXcess.

You may have seen them while passing through Subang SkyPark at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, where the machines were first deployed in October 2023, but expect to see more popping up in other locations in the next few months – BookBot was recently launched at its second location, KidZania at The Curve, Mutiara Damansara.

According to Andrew Yap, co-founder and managing director of BookXcess, BookBot is part of a partnership with CoffeeBot.

“The CEO of CoffeeBot, Lim Kean Leong, is a friend and he was the one who came up to us with the idea of having vending machines that dispense books,” says Yap.

“We’ve always wanted to expand on what Big Bad Wolf and BookXcess do, which is to make books affordable and accessible. In our view, accessibility is the most important aspect, but how do we get bookstores on every street corner? With BookBot, it’s possible,” he adds.

Book vending machines aren’t a new concept, and while MPH Bookstores had a similar idea to introduce them in Malaysia back in 2011, it never quite took off.

'We plan to roll out BookBot in different locations, such as hospitals, universities and shopping malls, and are aiming to launch around 50 machines by the end of this year,' says Yap. Photo: The Star/Izzrafiq Alias'We plan to roll out BookBot in different locations, such as hospitals, universities and shopping malls, and are aiming to launch around 50 machines by the end of this year,' says Yap. Photo: The Star/Izzrafiq Alias

“Maybe the timing then wasn’t right, but we feel that now is the right time, what with high retail overheads post-pandemic.

“For someone to buy something from a vending machine, you have to take into consideration the product itself and the cost. If it’s too expensive, then they will think twice. But if it’s a great product and it comes at an affordable price, then it becomes an impulse item and they’ll want to buy it now,” says Yap.

The books you can buy from BookBot are roughly priced between RM17.90 and RM29.90, ranging from children’s picture books to Young Adult and fiction novels, though the book selection will depend on the location and demographics of the area.

“We plan to roll out BookBot in different locations, such as hospitals, universities and shopping malls, and are aiming to launch around 50 machines by the end of this year. By 2026, we hope to have around 500 machines across Malaysia and Singapore,” shares Yap.

Need a read for a flight? There is also a BookBot at Subang SkyPark in Subang Airport. Photo: BookXcessNeed a read for a flight? There is also a BookBot at Subang SkyPark in Subang Airport. Photo: BookXcess

While BookXcess bookstores are known for their unique layouts and designs, attracting visitors looking to get that perfect shot for their Instagram, Yap says there’s a lot of potential for BookBots, too.

“What’s exciting is that we can do fun thematic events or campaigns with BookBot machines.

"For example, for a limited period, we can fill one up with Harry Potter books and related merchandise and decorate it accordingly, and fans of the series will definitely travel there to buy.”

Yap hopes that soon, buying books from a vending machine becomes the norm.

“Sales have been going up and it’s been very encouraging. So far the highest sales in a month has been over 400 books. So we hope to see more support from the community, as we believe that every Malaysian should read. Maybe one day we can even launch a book from a BookBot!”

Though bookstores are considered a second home to many bookworms, the idea of a book vending machine is intriguing.

Would you buy a book from a BookBot machine?

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