It is highly unlikely that you were living in Paris in 1925, but James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and others did, along with other members of the English-speaking expatriate community. And, like many expatriates, they would have been looking for a way to read English-language books.
In the age of Amazon, which seems to be able to deliver any book to our door in just a couple of days, and the internet, which delivers almost any text electronically in just a matter of a few seconds, we forget the challenge that passionate readers would have had in finding materials to read in their native language.
Sylvia Beach, an American woman living in Paris, founded a lending library and bookstore that was a solution to this need. She named it Shakespeare and Company, and her bookstore was a major literary landmark in Paris between the wars, from 1919 to 1941.
So what makes this a Friday post? I found a website that hosts the Shakespeare and Company project, a compendium of the records of the patrons of the library and the books that they checked out during those 22 years. The data is freely available on the site; you can use it yourself for exploration and analysis.
You can see what books each member checked out, and for many books, you can click through to a digital copy of the book that was in the library catalog at that time. What a fascinating way to explore the past.
How might this apply to your innovation efforts? Here are some questions for consideration:
- What datasets do you have that could be shared and might be of interest to a wider audience?
- What kind of project might you want to be a part of that would share a deep passion about a topic of great interest with a niche audience?
- How might a passionate niche audience align to your organization's work?