Author Archives: Klaava

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Get your free copy of Scandinavia travel guidebook

2017-06-22

What is the one thing you know about Scandinavia? Long winters, midnight sun in summer, design, education system, welfare, Abba, HIM, or A-ha? Well, the best way to find out more is to travel in Nordic countries and see how the region is yourself. A good starting point is the book we have put together from travel guidebooks and cultural guides that talk about Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Traveling in Scandinavia is an ebook that you download for free here.
Book cover image: Traveling in Scandinavia
The book is a selection of travel tips and cultural insights into the Nordic countries. A little bit of information on food and history is included as well.

Here is a taste of Scandinavia for you to explore at the comfort of your reading nook – perhaps before heading out to the North yourself. As the selection of writings show, there are plenty of destinations to see and things to do: city life, mountain biking, fishing in pristine rivers, camping, island hopping, road touring, Arctic adventures, or hiking in the wilderness. If something is missing, Finns will invent it (e.g. wife carrying competition), Swedes will sell it to the world (e.g. entire country available on Airbnb), and Norwegians will win the cross-country skiing world championship (again).

Thanks to EU, also Amazon has to compete on fair terms in the European ebook markets

2017-05-06

European Commission has made a decision on complaints about Amazon’s business practices in the EU markets. The decision published on 4th May 2017 confirms that the new terms Amazon had offered to the EU have been accepted. The new terms between Amazon and book publishers who operate in the EU market can not have the most favored nation clause anymore, which means that the publishers don’t have to guarantee Amazon the lowest ebook price.

amazon kindle voyage and paperwhite
European Commission agreed the following commitments offered by Amazon confirmed to EU’s competitive regulation:

[Amazon will] “Not to enforce (i) relevant clauses requiring publishers to offer Amazon similar non-price and price terms and conditions as those offered to Amazon’s competitors or (ii) any such clauses requiring publishers to inform Amazon about such terms and conditions. The commitments cover in particular provisions related to alternative/new business models, release date and catalogue of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency price, agency commission and wholesale price.
To allow publishers to terminate e-book contracts that contain a clause linking discount possibilities for e-books to the retail price of a given e-book on a competing platform (so-called Discount Pool Provision). Publishers are allowed to terminate the contracts upon 120 days’ advance written notice.
Not to include, in any new e-book agreement with publishers, any of the clauses mentioned above, including Discount Pool Provisions.”

The case is all about money and control. Amazon has used (and is still using in other markets) its dominant position in the market to enforce the best price and terms for ebooks it sells to consumers. EU has now ended the practice in Europe.

We can confirm that Amazon monitored the lowest price -clause. We have received a note from Amazon that told us to lower the price of an ebook at Amazon, because it was priced lower at another bookstore. There was not much choice, but to lower the product price for Amazon.

We shouldn’t forget that thanks to Amazon, the world has a dynamic ebook market today. Ten years ago, Amazon introduced the first Kindle ereader (a history of Kindle gives you an overview of all models – just look at the first one, oh dear). A pretty good selection of ebooks was available at 9.99 right from the start. It was a beginning for something new that is still developing strongly.

European Commission’s note on the Amazon decision. The investigation process started in June 2015.

Top 5 beaches of Algarve, Portugal with a photo gallery

2017-05-02

There are so many long, tiny, shallow, deep, rocky, fine-grained, and you-name-it kind of beaches in Algarve, South Portugal that I am not going argue that I would be able to pick the best one. I have selected nice, popular beaches that are different, and suit to different tastes and needs. The key point is that if you can, go ahead and discover beaches that may be a few kilometers away from the closest one to the place you are staying – you will be surprised about the variety and beauty that Algarve features along its shores. The following top 5 praias (beaches) are listed in alphabetical order.

Praia do Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal. Fishing village beach

The main beach of the fishing village Carvoeiro is a small, idyllic nook between tall rocks that rise vertically from the sea. The old village is located right next to the beach, also sheltered between rocky hills from the whims of the sea. The setup creates an idyllic and pretty place – just like many people imagine a classic fishing village and its beach. A few fishing boats on the beach are still in active use, allowing tourists to get a glimpse of traditional work and life in the village.

A walk or meal in the village, or a hike along paths on the rocks above the coastline complements a day on the beach. A boat tour to nearby caves is an adventure that you can book and set off from the beach. As the original village has become a (relatively small) tourist destination, small hotels and houses have been constructed around the community. Shops, cafés and restaurants have occupied the street-level apartments in the village center. Parking is problematic down in the village, but carparks have been built up on the hills.

Praia da Falesia

Sunrise at Falesia beach, Olhos d'Aqua. Algarve, POrtugal

The beach of Praia da Falesia is so long and varying that you can visit it daily for a week and still discover new places along the shore. The beach is about 5 kilometers / 3 miles long. From the outskirts of the village Olhos d’Aqua, it stretches east to the port of Vilamoura. Near Olhos d’Aqua, rocky hills rise behind the beach. Gradually towards Vilamoura, the hills get lower. Depending on the tide, peaceful coves are connected or disconnected from the rest of the beach near Olhos d’Aqua.

There are many entry points to the beach, but the most spectacular one is in Olhos d’Aqua. A 500 meter / 550 yard -long tiny road along a gorge carved into rocky hills starts from the street Rua Nossa Senhora Fatima at a point where the street makes a 90-degree turn. Some local people drive along the tiny gorge road down to the sea, but I would not recommend it. Walk or ride a mountainbike to check the condition of the unpaved road first. There is a small carpark down on the beach and two restaurants that attract visitors to this end of the beach.

Praia da Rocha

Portimaro, Praia da Rocha beach, Algarve, Portugal.

Praia da Rocha is probably the most famous beach of Algarve. If you have seen a brochure of Algarve with an image of a beach, it just could be Praia da Rocha. The beach is an impressive sight when you view it from the rocky hills above the coastline. Soft, sandy beaches stretch for about 3 kilometers / 2 miles under magnificent rock formations that rise from the beach and from the sea.

Praia da Rocha is located in the outskirts of Portimao, which is one of the major towns of Algarve. The beach starts from the mouth of Rio Arade and stretches to the west. Portimao town center is about 2 km/1.2 miles up river from the shore. Praia da Rocha beach area has developed into a major tourist destination with high-rise hotels and apartment blocks. Plenty of visitors also means plenty of services on the beach: restaurants, boat tours, jet ski rentals, and anything else you might want to have or do by the sea.

Sagres

Surfers in Sagres, Algarve, Portugal.

The long west coast of Portugal faces the Atlantic Ocean, featuring many beaches that are particularly popular among surfers. When heading south along the west coast, the community of Sagres is the point where the European continent ends, and the sea surrounds the land from the west and south. Sagres is one the highlights and most memorable sights in the whole Algarve, and worth a visit even if you don’t give a damn about surfing. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating sport to watch, at least, from the safety of solid ground.

The beaches in Sagres are: Praia da Mareta (below the Sagres village center), Praia do Tonel (the most spectacular), Praia do Beliche (sheltered place where families like to bathe), Praia do Martinhal (near the resort of the same name). Most surfers wait for the waves on Praia do Tonel that faces the Atlantic Ocean.

Praia dos Salgados

Salgados, Armacao de Pera, Algarve, Portugal. River meets the sea

The dunes of Praia dos Salgados and Praia Grande form a long stretch of soft, continuously moving fine-grained beach. The gorgeous beach is not the only thing that attracts visitors to Salgados. The delta of Alcantarilha River is a sizeable wetland area where thousands of birds live or rest during their migration. Boardwalks and viewing towers have been built for visitors to observe the busy life of birds of all sizes in the delta. A golf course borders the delta and the beach for those who want to try their driver and putter on Algarve’s famous courses.

Praia dos Salgados stretches from the mouth of Alcantarilha River to the community of Gale in the east. The same beach continues to the west side of Alcantarilha River, but near the town of Armacao de Pera, it is called Praia Grande. There are several entry points to the beach, but if you want to explore local wildlife as well, head to the large carpark in Salgados that is on the east side of the river mouth. The beach and the marshland are accessible right next to the carpark.


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Dual-screen Hisense A2 smartphone is also an ereader

2017-04-10

Common smartphone screen sizes are between 5 and 6 inches, and the most common ereader screen size is six inches. Reading a book on a bright and colorful smartphone display is pretty convenient these days. The downside is that the color screen drains the battery and it is still difficult to read in sunlight. So, why not build a smartphone with two screens: a color screen for apps and a black-and-white screen for ebooks.

Hisense A2 smartphone ereader. Photo: maistecnologia.com

Hisense A2. Photo: maistecnologia.com


The Hisense A2 is the latest product that has implemented just that. The smartphone comes with a 5.5-inch color display and a 5.2 E ink display. One side of the phone is used as an ordinary smartphone and the other side an ereader. Two devices in one product.

01net had an opportunity to get their hands on a Hisense A2 prototype. Their first impression was positive, so it seems that we finally could have a proper dual-screen smartphone for ebooks by the end of 2017. The price is expected to be around 400 euros.

Similar products have been available in some markets earlier. Yotaphone has returned to the business, introducing the Yotaphone 2. Its availability, however, is unclear at the moment. Also Onyx, which has successfully introduced a number of ereaders recently, had a dual-screen smartphone earlier, but it didn’t live long.

The Hisense A2 is already available in China, running on Android software.


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Bonnier takes digital disruption seriously, establishes publishing company for ebooks and audiobooks

2017-03-28

Very few (if any) traditional book publishers have given their ebook business the freedom to independently from the mother ship run their operation. Bonnier opens a new publishing company Bookery in April 2017 which specializes in ebooks and audiobooks alone. This is the classic method for managing disruption caused by a new technology in large companies: let the new company compete in the changing markets on its own terms.

ereader on top of stack of books
Media company Bonnier operates in 15 countries, primarily in Europe. The company was established 200 years ago in Sweden, where its headquarters still are located. In addition to books, the family owned business publishes magazines, newspapers, broadcast media, and owns bookstore chains.

If a visionary manager tries to run a new business within a large corporation like that, he or she is often doomed to fail. The new business may compete in different terms than the primary business, and may even compete head-to-head with the corporation’s main business. It is not usually tolerated, and the new business doesn’t have room to operate.

So, establishing a separate company for a new business indicates that the headquarters is serious about the new thing. In this case, Bonnier has determined it is time to take digital book publishing seriously.

The management for the new digital-only company has been hired from outside Bonnier. The CEO of Bookery Åsa Selling told SVB: “We believe series and short texts work well in digital formats. Above all novels, but also non-fiction. Now, we will talk to authors who are willing to write stories for the new formats. They can be plain ebooks, but also audiobooks that are something else than simply recorded readings.”

Bookery aims at sourcing and publishing 20-25 new titles per year with the first ebooks available in 2018.

Travel guidebooks for destinations in Europe

2017-03-15

Europe is the most popular travel destination for vacation-goers worldwide. First, royalty and then, tourists have been visiting Europe’s majestic cities, medieval villages, castles, fortresses, mountains and beaches for centuries. The infrastructure and services for travelers are in place.

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante, Spain

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante, Spain


Trends in travel change with time, and some destinations that earlier used to welcome visitors, may today wish tourists would go home. That’s an exception. In general, traveling in Europe is safe and people are friendly.

Even though English is the most widely understood language in Continental Europe, there is plenty of variation in regions. In eastern countries, German, Russian and French maybe more common foreign languages than English. In south Europe, English German and French are spoken in tourist regions, but outside them, travelers have to know enough local language to manage daily life.

Rick Steves has published many guidebooks for European destinations, but there are other, contemporary and visual travel guides published as ebooks worth reading. Travel Guidebooks Europe visual travel guidebooks cover north Europe and south Europe, and parts of Asia as well.

Getting to know the local culture is not as easy as many tourists believe. You get to know some German ways and you believe that it is all the same all over Europe. Not quite. Every nation in Europe has its own culture, etiquette and accepted behavior. If you intend to stay a bit longer in a destination, it is a good idea to prepare beforehand and read a cultural guide to the country.

Cultural guides are also featured in the book series of visual travel guides for Europe.

Klaava Travel Guide ebooks are available for download here.

Considering moving to, or working remotely from another country? These are the healthiest countries in the world

2017-03-11

Usually expats live and work in a country where they have been sent to for a few years, whereas digital nomads may move to a new country after a month. Nonetheless, the status of health services and the quality of the environment in the destination country are major factors when considering where to move. InterNations conducted a large survey where they asked people who have lived abroad their opinion about the health situation in countries they have lived in. Here are the results.

The ranking of the top 13 healthiest countries in the world includes 7 European countries and 6 countries from other parts of the world. Austria was ranked the number one country, followed by Taiwan and Finland.

InterNations is the world’s largest network of people who are living and working overseas. InterNations asked the members of the network to rank their health and well-being in the countries where they are living or have lived. This particular question was part of a wider survey on the quality of living abroad.

They asked 14,300 people living overseas to rate 43 aspects of life in their new country. Respondents represent 174 nationalities who are living in 191 countries or territories,

These are the 13 healthiest countries in the world according to the InterNation survey.

1. Austria.
Is it the Alps, Mozart, ski slopes, Vienna or something else that makes Austria do so well in quality of life surveys like this? All of that and good healthcare.
Austria Alps, photo by Francisco Antunes

2. Taiwan.
Taiwan and Japan were the only Asian countries ranked high in well-being in the survey. Stray dogs and beggars roam the streets of the capital Taipei, but in general expats were very happy with health services.
Taipei by Ludovic Lubeigt

3. Finland.
Finland is a country where everything works, and that concerns healthcare as well. While expats thank the reasonable cost of medical care in the country, the nation is in a process of totally renewing its healthcare system (because of high costs).

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

4. Japan.
Japan is quickly aging, and it is the reason why the country leads the world in the development of personal assistant robots. The other parts of the health system work fine as well.

5. Israel
Perhaps it is surprising to see Israel ranked so high on wellbeing, but if you forget the serious issues with personal safety and security, it has other positive things on its side.

6. Denmark
Denmark and its capital Copenhagen have been voted as the best places to live many times and it shows in this survey as well. Health services in the former Viking country are regarded excellent.

7. Germany.
On autobahns people may sometimes challenge death by driving as fast as their Porsches and BMWs go, but maybe they rely on country’s reliable health services.

8. France.
Tax rates in France are among the highest in Europe (if not in the world), but the locals say that they are so proud of their excellent welfare system that they don’t mind paying their taxes.

9. Costa Rica.
Expats are happy with Costa Rica in general and health services available in the country.

10. Spain
When an expat is sent to Spain to work in an air-conditioned office from 9:30am until 7pm, people who don’t know any better, wish him or her sunny vacation days on the beach. Nothing could be further from the truth. In any case, high quality health services are readily available both in public and private institutions. Spain’s climate probably adds points to the well-being ranking.

11. New Zealand
Not only one of the world’s most exciting vacation destinations, New Zealand has a high living standard and welcoming people.

12. Canada
Canada is the only North American country that made it to the top 13. The country’s large cities have consistently been ranked high in the best cities to live in surveys as well.

13. Sweden.
The mother of welfare states continues to welcome immigrants and refugees while maintaining its health services in top condition.

Via Independent.

Planning a trip to the northernmost region of Europe, Lapland? This is what you need to know

2017-02-23

The northernmost region of Continental Europe, Lapland, is a vast wilderness area where the great outdoors invite people to hike, ski, fish, ride a mountainbike or simply just admire the scenery. Located north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland is also the home of Sami people and their reindeer.

Since Lapland is quite far away from large centers of civilization and distances in the region can be long, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for a trip to the region. The best way to explore the region is to drive, and it shows during the summer when the roads of Lapland see the number of motorhomes, cars and motorbikes considerably increase.
Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image
Some road travelers have a mission to reach Europe’s northernmost place Nordkapp (North Cape), whereas others explore fells, fjords, hiking paths, Sami culture and small towns of Lapland. There is something for everyone, except for those who require big-city sights.

Now, you can plan your Nordic journey with a Klaava Travel Guide titled Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. The book features the sights, destinations, activities, events, wildlife, and everything needed for a successful trip to the north. Special sections for road travelers highlight the best routes and tips for driving in varying conditions.

Information on the book’s availability and prices can be viewed at this page.

Below a few sample pages from the book.

hiking destinations in Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)
Scenic drives in Lapland (north Finland, Norway, Sweden)
City of Tromsö, Norway in travel guidebook Lapland
Abisko national park in Sweden, Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)

The modern libraries of Thionville, France and Seinäjoki, Finland have something in common

2017-02-15

Public libraries all over the world have a new problem to solve: how to provide the best possible services to citizens when the core service of a library – printed book – is transforming to digital format. Ebooks can be checked out from a library at home sofa, at beach chair or at hospital bed. We firmly believe libraries as public spaces are needed in the future as well, but how they will look like and what they might actually do is another thing.

One of the first real life experiments with next generation library is being conducted in Texas, USA. Bexar County has opened an all digital library called Bibliotech. There are no physical books for people to loan, but computers, tablets and ereaders where library card holders can loan and read ebooks (or hang out on the Internet). Library staff is always there to help with books and with technology.
Thionville library in France
The town of Thionville in northern France didn’t go all digital when it opened a new library in 2016. It is a beautiful modern building with plenty of space for activities, like sipping coffee, having a picnic on the roof, or playing instruments in soundproof rooms. The architects explained to Fast Company that the objective was to build spaces for the community. Printed books are available in the library, as well as ebooks and other forms of digital media.

Thionville doesn’t even call its new building a library, but Mediatheque.

Before we continue to Seinäjoki, Finland, take a look at a video introduction to the Mediatheque of Thionville, France. Mediatheque was opened in 2016. It was designed by the Strasbourg-based firm Dominique Coulon and Associates.

Let’s jump from Central Europe to Northern Europe in order to find out what kind of libraries are being built in Scandinavia. One of the most liked and celebrated new libraries in Finland was built in Seinäjoki, in the central region of the country. The Apila (Shamrock) Library, designed by Helsinki-based architects JKMM, opened in 2012.

The primary service in Seinäjoki library is still printed books, but community spaces, activities and digital media have their own nooks, rooms and corners as well. The shadow of Finland’s master architect Alvar Aalto was a factor in the design process because buildings designed by Aalto are located around the new library.

Now, take a look at the following photo gallery of the Seinäjoki Apila Library and compare the pictures with the video images of the Thionville library. There are a number of details and large design solutions that resemble one another in these two libraries, even though the architects are different. Perhaps it is a sign that libraries are finding one common way to serve citizens in the digital future.

Seinäjoki Apila library, Finland
modern library of Seinäjoki in Scandinavia
modern library  architecture in Seinäjoki, Finland, North Europe
community spaces in Seinäjoki library, Finland
reading nook in Seinajoki library, Finland, Scandinavia, Europe

What is the Finnish way of doing things? American author reveals it all in the 6th edition of his book about Finland

2017-02-10

Author, journalist Russell Snyder moved to Finland from California in 1982. He has spent over 30 years exploring and enjoying the Nordic country. He has traveled far and wide searching for experiences, but has uncovered many cultural treasures right in Helsinki where he has mostly lived. “Finland is both a great place to visit and to live. The longer you stay here, the more you become hooked on the Finnish way of doing things.”
cover image of book: The Lighter Side of Finland 6th Ed
Here is what the author had to say about the new edition of his book about Finland.

You have just launched the 6th edition of The Lighter Side of Finland. When was the first one published?

The first edition was published 22 years ago. It reflected Finland as it was back then. However, Finland is constantly changing and redefining itself, so the book has been updated and revised to reflect those changes.

Why have you picked this year to publish this new edition?

Finland is celebration its 100-year anniversary of becoming an independent nation, so I wanted to celebrate the occasion with this book.

You use a lot of humor in your writing.

I believe humor is the best way to encourage people to keep reading. And if people are entertained and get a few laughs, they may even remember something.

What have been your favorite experiences in Finland?

Sledding on a hill with my kids. Walking around in a forest in Lapland during the autumn to experience the fantastic colors. Fishing on the Ruunaa River and smoking the freshly caught trout on a campfire. Dancing on a Saturday night in a small village and meeting new friends. Trying out the magnificent smoke saunas the Sauna Society. And many more.

You have also written Analysis of the Finnish Tango and I, Helsinki. Any plans to write another book?

I hope to write a book about Estonia soon.

sauna etiquette in Finland
The book covers the basics of sauna etiquette as well as many other unique Finnish customs.

Koob is creating new types of audiobooks that even children may want to listen to

2017-01-30

During the last couple of years, the biggest growth numbers in the book trade has been recorded by digital books – especially, audiobooks. The market for audiobooks has been very small, but because audiobooks can be listened to on smartphones and tablets, they are becoming more popular.

Usually, a professional narrator reads a book from the beginning to the end, and that’s it. Now, a company called Koob has decided to make audiobooks more exciting – so exciting that even children like to listen to them.
listening to Koob audiobooks
Koob’s concept is based on the application of stereo sound. In addition to the narration, Koob’s books feature sounds that create an atmosphere and establish a feeling of presence of the characters for the listener.

The audiobooks created with the new method are called Virtual Reality Audiobooks. The company describes the method’s objective as follows: “the listener’s brain is tricked into thinking it’s experiencing sounds first-hand and become part of the story as they engage in active imagination”.

Koob is planning to publish 40 audiobooks that feature its technology during 2017.

No words can describe the real thing (and Koob is a heavy user of hype- and buzzwords), but you can listen to samples of Virtual Reality Audiobooks on Koob’s web site.

If you are traveling in Europe with your dogs, here is a tour for them

2017-01-26

It is probably impossible to estimate how many dogs travel with their families in Europe. Of course, dogs do travel in other continents as well, but rather reasonable travel distances, good road network, varying landscapes and predominantly friendly attitude towards furry companions in Europe encourage many road travelers to take their pets along for a journey. In London, an insurance company even organized special tours for dogs on a double-decker bus.
Dog tour by More Than
The special tours for dogs (More th>n Doggyessenti>ls) circled London between January 16 and 19, 2017. Now it is too late to try and book a seat for the tour, but if you are planning to travel to London, nothing stops you from following the same route and seeing the same sights as the dogs who had an opportunity to join one of the tour groups.

The 90-minute tour allowed passengers to get a glimpse of seven sights:

1. Victoria Tower Garden: Site of the annual Parliament dog show.
2. Houses of Parliament: voice your opinion on laws that affect canines.
3. Buckingham Palace: say hi to the Queen’s Corgis (if you are lucky).
4. Hyde Park: your opportunity to show off in the park and impress everyone who is anything in London.
5. Kensington Palace and Gardens.
6. The Kennel Club: dog paintings.
7. 10 Downing Street: find out who is running the country: the Prime Minister or four-legged friends.

Take a look at the video where dogs enjoy their tour in London:

What I would really like to know is how many hours or even days the filming of the video required? When you let a bunch of dogs in a small space like a bus, they start smelling, chasing, playing and fighting with one another. None of the dogs will sit down quietly for a microsecond and just stare out of the window. Still, the video is good fun.