Not only the Lello bookstore (aka Harry Potter bookstore) is attracting visitors in Porto, Portugal, but also local people don’t mind queuing to a bookstore every now and then.
During winter, there is an abundance of raw material available in Lapland if you want to build a hotel using blocks of ice, or a castle from blocks of snow. In fact, an icehotel has been operating in Swedish Lapland in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna for many years, and a huge snowcastle is built every winter in the city of Kemi in Finland. Both are commercial establishments that accommodate guests in hotel rooms and serve visitors in restaurants inside the arctic buildings. Now, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi has announced a plan to keep the building in ice around the year, and open for guests.
Architectural Digest reports that the Icehotel management is going to use solar power to keep the frozen structures in -5 C / 23 F through the summer months. The solar power will be used to keep the walls and structures inside the hotel cool, because the outmost walls will be constructed from concrete. Pretty smart: since the sun is up all the time during the Nordic summer, why not suck its energy and keep things cool with it.
The Icehotel is located on the shores of lake (some people argue it is a river, but it definitely looks like a lake) Jukkasjärvi. When the lake freezes in autumn, the construction of the hotel can begin. Special tools are used to saw huge blocks of ice from the lake. A forklift with custom-made fork lifts the block from the lake. Forklifts transport the standard-size ice blocks to the construction site, or to the warehouse.
View a video that shows how ice blocks are being lifted from the lake and transported to the warehouse.
Once the concrete exterior and the solar power system is ready, the Icehotel intends to keep nine deluxe suites (complete with private saunas and baths), 11 art suites, an ice bar, and an ice art gallery open during the summer (year-around). Hotel founder Yngve Bergqvist believes they will actually be more energy efficient than earlier: “We will produce around 75 kW between April and September, leaving an energy surplus that we can utilize to run existing buildings such as a restaurant, offices, and warm guest rooms.”
Summer of 2017 is the first summer when the Icehotel will be open even and ice after the snow has melted from the ground and from the lake around the site.
As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going on at the moment. Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto are world class destinations that attract an increasing number of visitors. One of the lucky Portuguese destinations that gets more visitors than it perhaps ever wished for is a beautiful bookstore in the city of Porto in North Portugal. The author of Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, drew inspiration from it and perhaps also used the bookstore setting as a platform for the Harry Potter world.
Photo by Michal Huniewicz.
So, it seems that every tourist who arrives in Porto wants to visit the Lello shop in the city center.
The result is that the shop is crowded. Once people discovered the store and the word spread, it has been a travel destination. The bookstore eventually became so crowded that the owners had to think of something to allow people to actually shop books and to look around, too.
They invented a scheme that works like this: outside the bookstore is a kiosk (the red kiosk in the photos) where you have to buy an entrance ticket (yes, you pay to enter a bookshop). The kiosk controls the flow of people to the store. Once you buy something, the ticket price is deducted from the total. Fair, and simple system that allows some breathing room for bookstore visitors.
How to avoid spending a long time in the queue? Arrive early in the morning. Early is a relative term, but if you hit the scene before 11 o’clock, you should be fine.
An important tip for Porto explorers: Beware of the traffic in Porto and everywhere else in Portugal. The way locals drive is very fast, dangerous and unpredictable, and it is against their religion to indicate which way they are going.
World Cities Culture Forum collects culture related data from large cities across the world. The organization publishes the data annually as statistics that describe what kind of cultural services the cities have and how citizens use them. One of the published statistics compares the number of bookstores and public libraries against the city population.
The World Cities Culture Forum organization comprises 32 cities that collect and share data on the role of the cities in the future, services the cities provide, and how the cities are administered. The Forum only collects and publishes information on cities that are members of the organization. The participating cities are listed here.
As we can see in the table below, Asian cities tend to have more bookstores per capita than cities in other continents.
100 000 inhabitants
The number of libraries per capita is bigger in Europe than in other continents.
100 000 inhabitants
For more than 40 years, John W. Miller at Central Connecticut State University has analyzed the reasons and consequences for literacy and illiteracy from the society’s point of view. When he decided to analyze all the countries of the world, the result was a ranking for the World’s Most Literate Nations. Nordic countries top the list.
Top 10 literate countries in the world are:
7. United States
The research didn’t measure the usual yardstick – percentage how many citizens in each country are literate, but literate behaviors and supporting resources in each country. The criteria for the analysis were:
– Number of libraries and their book selection.
– Number of newspapers, their circulation and online availability.
– Education system resources.
– Education system results, especially concerning literacy.
– Number of computers at homes (not tablets or smartphones, but only computers).
Miller intended to analyze data on 200 countries, but was able to collect reliable data from 61 countries. He concludes the importance of literary culture: “The factors we examine present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation’s cultural vitality. And what the rankings strongly suggest and world literacy demonstrates is that these kinds of literate behaviors are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economies that define our global future.”
It is quite remarkable how European countries, especially Northern European nations, hold top positions in the ranking for the most literate nations.
The report World’s Most Literate Nations by Connecticut State University is available here.
Ebooks made a quick breakthrough in countries where English is the dominant language after Amazon introduced the Kindle ereading system. From the beginning, Amazon’s ebook selection was huge, and prices were reasonable. In Europe (apart from the UK), the situation is different: ebooks haven’t gained the same status as printed books. Slowly, but surely the situation is changing in Europe as well, because ebook sales is continuously growing and print books are declining.
EU organization European Parliamentary Research Service has drafted a report that looks at the book market in Europe and possible reasons, such as country-specific taxation policies, for the slow development of ebook markets.
The statistic sums up only five EU book markets, but (again, apart from the Great Britain) the trend is clear: ebooks are slowly finding readers, whereas printed books are losing readers. In 2014, the market share of ebooks was about 10%.
What is missing in Europe is the quick quantum leap that took ebooks to a new level in the US around 2010 and 2012. Then, ebooks gained 20-30% share of the book market. Recently, ebooks have taken a step back when the big publishers started controlling ebook pricing.
Why the quantum leap hasn’t happened in Europe? There are many small countries and a variety of languages. Many regional publishers have not made their back catalogue available as ebooks at all. It means that the ebook selection in a small language area may only be a couple of thousand titles. Ebook prices can be almost at the same level with print book prices. Poor selection, poor pricing strategy, and little marketing for ebooks.
The attitudes are changing in Europe. EU is examining ways to tax ebook and print books according to the same principles. Ebook selection is growing and big European publishers are reporting big growth numbers for digital products. One of the largest publishers, Bonnier, recently told that its ebook sales increased 69% in 2015 compared to the year before. The total share of ebooks from the sales in 2015 was 10%.
Just a reminder that books are a huge global business compared to other media businesses. With an estimated value of US$151 billion, books have outdistanced music (US$50 billion), video games (US$63 billion), magazines (US$107 billion) and even film and entertainment (US$133 billion).
In the northern hemisphere, spring is in the air. Not only in the air, especially in the regions where the snow is melting, rivers and rapids are filled with powerfully flowing water. Here is a scene from Scandinavia. View the video:
Planning to travel in Scandinavia? A travel guide to Sweden shows you the best places and activities in southern region of the country.
The majority of overseas visitors arrive in Helsinki, Finland’s capital in the summer. During summer weekends, however, local people migrate to their summer cottages they have built on lake and sea shores around the country. In the winter, on the other hand, a visitor may encounter peculiar local habits, such as skiing and skating on sea or sledding in the city center.
In any case, if you are planning to visit Finland, and Helsinki in particular, it makes sense to plan ahead. Travel guidebook I, Helsinki lets you quickly discover the sights you want to visit and activities you would like to try out.
Here is a video (captured in the summer) that includes five chapters from the book that you can listen and watch: