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Artificial intelligence computer software is already helping authors write fiction books

2018-10-22

Writers who know how to create computer software have tried to develop applications that can write for years. Earlier, we reported about automatic and semi-automatic tools that can write simple news reports and structure scientific papers. Now, fiction author Robin Sloan has developed a smart and simple tool that feeds him text when he wants ideas.
two computer monitors chatting
The New York Times visited Robin Sloan who demonstrated his idea generator-application to the reporter. This is what The Times reporter saw on the author’s computer screen.

Here is how a computer writes fiction

Mr Sloan typed in his tool: The bison have been traveling for two years back and forth. He stopped and pushed a button on the keyboard. The computer thought for a second and printed on the screen: between the main range of the city.
Another sample: The bison are gathered around the canyon. Sloan typed, and pushed a button that woke up the helper application. After a brief moment, the computer added the words by the bare sky to the screen.

The definition of artificial intelligence (AI) is broad and flexible, but Mr Sloan’s writing assistant software could be called machine learning or even a bot (for more about the AI and ML definitions, read this). The application looks at a few sentences that have been typed before the magic button was pushed, searches its database for matching phrases and suggests a few words that might fit into the context.
Robin Sloan writing tool, screen shot
Robin Sloan's software
Robin Sloan himself regards his application as a collaborator that makes his work actually harder and helps him produce different results than he alone might have been able to achieve. Sloan has made his software available (consisting of two components: torch-rnn-server and rnn-writer) for other tinkerers to try out.

So, artificial intelligence software applications are not going to write fiction books in the near future. But what about nonfiction?

Nonfiction writers may get help from AI as well

South China Morning Post reports about the AI research group of Alibaba, China’s biggest online commerce company, which has developed a machine-learning software that beats humans. It was tested with the Stanford Question Answering Dataset, and scored higher in the large-scale reading comprehension test than humans. Alibaba’s machine-learning software scored 82.44 on the test, compared with 82.30 that humans achieved.

The chief scientist behind the software believes that computers can now answer questions such as “what causes rain?” with a high level of accuracy. “We believe the technology can be applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials, and patient inquiries online.”

Nonetheless, the Alibaba scientist reminded that the system currently works reliably with questions that have straightforward answers. If the question’s language or expressions are vague or the grammar is incorrect, or a prepared answer is missing, the software may not be able to answer correctly.

A software technology that Alibaba’s research has developed would be a great help for nonfiction writers, editors, and fact-checkers. All those small (and big) facts and details that just have to be correct in a commercial book could be verified by a piece of software.

Having access to this technology might shorten the time to write a nonfiction book.
Alibaba screen shot

Onyx Boox Nova ereader comes with sharp 7.8 screen and Android software

2018-10-17

Even though ebook reader device manufacturers are not abandoning small 6-inch products, the innovation has moved to larger devices. 7.8, 8 and 10 inches are the ereader product sizes that manufacturers are bringing to that markets. Onyx Boox Nova (and its handwriting-capable cousin Boox Nova Plus) comes with sharp 7.8 E ink screen and Android software.
Onyx Boox Nova with PDF document on screen
A key feature in the Onyx Boox Nova is that it is running on Android operating system. Among other things, it means that it is possible to download and run Android apps on the e-reader. All Android application won’t run properly on an ereader because hardware is slightly different to tablets or smartphones.

Onyx has recognized this, and has decided to supply a dedicated App Store for E Ink devices with the Boox Nova. This is quite remarkable. Let’s hope the selection of applications is sufficient so that ebook readers can find their favorite apps in the store.

The frontlight in the Boox Nova can be switched on and off (to save battery), and the warmth of the light can be adjusted as well. There is no memory card slot, but the product comes with ample 32GB of storage space.
Onyx Boox Nova ereader user interface
The ereader can transmit audio to loudspeakers via Bluetooth. If you have portable Bluetooth speakers, you can listen to audiobooks saved in the Boox Nova through the speakers.

The Boox Nova and the Boox Nova Plus are two different products. There are only two features that make them different, everything else in these products is the same. The Boox Nova has a frontlight, but you can’t draw or write directly on the screen. The Boox Nova Plus doesn’t come with front light, but it comes with stylus that lets you write on the screen.

Onyx products can be ordered from Amazon stores. Check your local Amazon for the price and availability.

Notebook Italia recorded a video clip (below) where an Onyx marketing representative introduces the Boox Nova.

Key features and specifications of the Onyx Boox Nova

Onyx Boox Nova with Android 6 operating system

7.8-inch HD Eink Carta screen. Capacitive touch.
Screen resolution 1872 x 1404 pixels, 300 dots per inch (dpi), 16 gray scale.
Cortex-A17 1.6GHz Quad-core.
2GB RAM.
32GB of storage.
Front light with warm and cold shade control.
Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth 4.1.
USB-C port.
Android 6.0 operating system.
Ebooks and documents: EPUB, PDF, TXT, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, MOBI. It can open DRM-protected ebooks.
Audio files that can be listened:WAV, MP3.
Buttons: back, power.
2800mAh Li-Polymer battery.
Dimensions 196 × 137 × 7.7 mm.
Weight 240 gr.

8-inch ereader Kobo Forma has been designed to stand a knock or two

2018-10-07

Kobo was one of the first companies to market larger than six inch e-readers, and it also has pioneered in bringing features like frontlight and waterproof shells to devices. Now, Kobo has introduced a high-end ereader with 8 inch screen, front light, and rugged features that the company believes will keep the device intact in diverse reading environments and during travels.
Kobo Forma 8-inch e-reader
For an eight-inch ereader, the Forma is truly light. In fact, it is lighter than some smaller ereaders. The reason is that plastic components have been used in the product to keep the weight down and to make it more rugged. Even the screen, consisting of E ink Mobius technology, is made of plastic.

The result is a device that has a bit of flexibility. This means that the Forma can take some knocks without breaking apart or without precious screen shattering into pieces (because it is a plastic screen). The product is also waterproof down to two meters deep water.

A design decision that instantly catches the eye is that the Kobo Forma looks like the product has been meant to be held in landscape position. It just looks so natural in landscape. Ebook readers who like to have large fonts on the screen will find landscape comfortable. Naturally, it can be held upright so that the keys are on the left hand or right hand side as well. The display rotates automatically.
waterproof Kobo Forma e-reading device

Which features explain the price of the Kobo Forma?

The Kobo Forma is priced at USD 279 / 279 euros / GBP 239. The SleepCover case & stand costs USD 49 / 49 euros / GBP 39.
Kobo Forma SleepCover case & stand SleepCover case and stand for Kobo Forma
Kobo highlights that the Forma is designed to be a durable ereader. The Mobius technology used in the display has a flexible plastic layer. This makes the thin and lightweight device to withstand the wear and tear of daily use. In tests, the Kobo Forma has survived drops of more than two meters, as well as bends, twists, dangerous objects in handbags, and pressures in tightly loaded backpacks.

Below you can view a hands-on video review of the Kobo Forma (at 1 –> 8 minutes, and a comparison with the 7-inch Kindle Oasis from minute 8 onwards):

Kobo Forma 8-inch e-reader key features and specifications

Kobo Forma ereader has 8-inch plastic E ink screen
– 8.0 inch screen in 1440 × 1920 resolution (300 PPI).
– Frontlight with adjustable color temperature (ComfortLight Pro).
– Waterproof down to 2 meters deep water for 60 minutes (IPX8).
– Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n,
– Micro USB port.
– Internal storage space 8 GB.
– TypeGenius font system: 11 different fonts and over 50 font styles with font weight and sharpness settings.
– 14 ebook and document file formats: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CB.
– Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish.
– Weight 197 gr.
– Size 160 x 178 x 8.5 mm (thickness at gripping area) and 4.2 (thickness at the thinner side).
– Battery 1200 mAh, weeks of battery life in normal use, but it primarily depends on the Wi-Fi and front light usage.

The key differences between 10-inch tablets and 10-inch ereaders

2018-09-22

Small e-reader devices with 6-inch E ink displays are still around, and new models are continuously introduced, but new development is happening elsewhere. Recently, 7.8 and 10-inch ereaders have adopted so many new features that it is time to examine what really is the difference between an 8 or 10-inch tablet and an ereader of the same size.

This comparison considers both the Amazon Kindle and EPUB reading devices as ereaders, and both Android and Apple 8 or 10-inch devices as tablets, because the purpose is to study the principal differences of product categories, not individual products.
Amazon Kindle e-reader in sunshine

Display

Tablets come with LCD or LED screen that can display bright colors (up to 16 million different). High-end tablets have sharp displays whereas budget tablets can have quite low resolution displays. Nonetheless, the tablet displays are excellent for watching movies, photos, web pages and reading nonfiction books or textbooks with illustrations.
E ink screens used in reading devices can only display black and white, and a few shades of grey. They are optimized for text. It works so well that many book lovers prefer ereaders instead of paper and ink. On the downside, viewing video clips is not even possible on most ereaders, and photos don’t look very nice.

Processing power

Since ereaders have been optimized for displaying text, the required processing power has been minimal. This is changing with 10-inch ereaders. Because many large screen models can accept handwritten input and they run Android software, more powerful processors have been introduced to new ereaders.
Generally speaking, tablets have more processing power because they are multipurpose devices, capable of, for instance, playing and recording video.

Storage

Storage capacity in tablets and ereaders typically consist of two separate spaces: storage space inside the device (it is fixed in size and can’t be changed) and a memory card slot where you can insert a card of your choice. No meaningful differences between ereaders and tablets.

Connectivity

Wi-Fi for wireless internet access is a vital connectivity feature, and it is included both in tablets and ereaders. Usually, a USB port is featured for charging and for PC connection as well.
The key difference is that it is possible to order some tablet models with a mobile network connection (3G or 4G), whereas ereaders don’t have this option (if you know one, let us know).

Reading

Ereaders were designed for reading. The display technology successfully imitates paper and ink. The display doesn’t flicker once the text has been rendered on the screen. The introduction of built-in light that allows reading in poorly lit conditions finally made ereaders products that can be used anywhere, from dark bedroom to direct sunlight. Many features make reading comfortable, such as changing font size and type, search, and possibility to make notes.
The display technology in tablets is the same as in laptop computers. The colors are bright and beautiful that help when reading, for instance, an illustrated nonfiction book or textbook. Some experts regard long hours of reading from a screen that emits light and flickers potentially harmful, but the fact is that office workers and freelancers stare at laptop and tablet screens for long working hours. Reading applications available for tablets have similar features as ereaders.
Inkbook Infinity, 10.3-inch e-reader - writing tablet

Writing

Few people acquire a tablet or ereader for writing alone, but both can be used to typing notes and jotting down drafts.
Some high-end tablets come with wireless keyboards, and other tablets can connect to Bluetooth keyboards for typing. For instance, Apple iPad Pro has sophisticated features for writing with stylus.
Writing is the hot feature that new 10-inch ereader devices have introduced to the world recently. No more are e-readers for reading alone, but it is possible to write down notes, drafts, and draw images with a stylus. This changes the original purpose of the product. For instance, Sony regards its 10-inch model DPT-CP1 a tool for office workers who can store their documents in the device, read, and annotate them on the screen.
We believe also researchers and writers can use a 10-inch ereader that is running on Android software for collecting information, storing documents, saving voice notes, annotating documents, jotting down notes, and writing drafts on a device.

Music, photos, video

Tablets are excellent for music playback, as well as for video and photo viewing. Many tablets have stereo sound, and a headphone jack for enjoying audiobooks, podcasts and music. Videos and photos are a pleasure to view on color screen.
Most ereaders have an MP3 player application for listening to audiobooks and music. Video viewing is not possible, and photos don’t look good.

Social media

Tablets are ideal devices for social media. It is easy follow multiple social channels, view photos, videos, and update personal comments to newsfeeds. All social media services are available for tablets.
Ereaders that are powered by Android software can connect to social media services if a respective application runs on the device. Videos are not available, and photos don’t look very nice in grayscale. Old ereaders without Android can not access social media services.

Indoors

Tablet screens provide their own light, making it possible to use them indoors in brightly lit rooms and in dark corners.
Modern ereader devices come with frontlight that makes the black-and-white screen visible even in dark. Beware of old ereader models that don’t have frontlight at all.

Outdoors

Tablets can be used outdoors, but shade is required. No matter how bright the screen is, direct sunlight will make it unreadable. Also reflections on the screen disturb viewing.
E ink screens used in ereaders are exceptional in sunshine: it is easier to read on an ereader than a printed book, magazine or newspaper.
Kindle Fire HD tablet

Applications

Millions of applications are available for tablets at Apple App Store and Google Play. The possibility to download applications is a remarkable advantage because it allows you to enhance the functionality of the device.
Traditional ereading devices were closed systems where it was impossible to install new apps, but new ereaders that are running on Android operating system make it possible to download apps (all apps won’t work, but many do).

Battery

Battery life in ereader devices is so long that you may almost forget about it. The special screen in ereaders requires very little power, making it possible to use a device for weeks without recharge.
Tablets must be recharged after a day or two, naturally depending on the usage. The primary reason is the color screen that consumes plenty of energy in a tablet.

Price

10-inch tablet prices range from 100 to 1500 dollars/euros. Low-end tablets are made of cheap plastics, whereas high-end tablets have been designed to replace powerful laptops, raising their prices considerably.
10-inch ereaders typically cost 300-600 dollars/euros.
Onyx Boox Note 10.3 inch reader for note taking, drawing

More information on large screen ereaders

Bouye Likebook Note
Icarus Illumina XL6
Sony DPT-CP1
Onyx Boox Note
Onyx Boox Max2
Pocketbook Inkpad 3
Ereaders with 8 inch screens

Who creates the titles for books and how?

2018-09-07

A good book title triggers so much curiosity that a reader wants to grab the book right away and read what it is all about. Of course, a book with a boring title (for instance, Gone with the Wind, or Brideshead Revisited) can become a bestseller, but then, other factors in the book and its marketing have succeeded better than the title creator.

bookstore inside department store
Klaava Media has contributed to many ebook projects, and in these cases, the majority of book titles have been created by the authors. The vast majority of the titles authors finally settled with, however, were not the first ones they suggested.

After discussing the importance of the title with an author, throwing ideas into the air, and digging deep into the key theme of the book, authors usually discover a title that everyone is happy with.

The process of discovering a title is roughly the same for a nonfiction and fiction book. The purpose of the title slightly differs: nonfiction can be descriptive whereas fiction should be exciting.

Rare books dealer Jonkers has published an infographic that explains how titles for a number of classics were created. Also in the case of classics, some titles were suggested by authors, some by publishers, and some were discovered in collaboration.

classic book titles, infographic by Jonkers
Infographic by Jonkers Rare Books.

Some of the classics mentioned in the infographic:

George Orwell’s 1984 was originally The Last Man in Europe.
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was Strangers from Within.
Charles Dicken’s Little Dorrit original name was Nobody’s Fault.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice originally was First Impressions.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was Trimalchio in West Egg.

Books are the core element for creative industries, such as movies, television and theater

2018-08-10

After a movie screening, we all have heard talk among the audience: “This time, the movie really was better than the book”, “I have to read the book”, or “The book was much richer than the movie”. The thing is that it doesn’t matter. In all these cases, a book has been the starting point, the core element, for presenting a story. The Publishers Association in the UK argues that movies and plays based on books attract audiences and generate revenue more convincingly than productions created from other sources.

ballerinas watching at stage in a theater
The Publishers Association has published a report Publishing’s Contribution to the Wider Creative Industries that studies the relationship of business success and popularity among audiences of books, movies, television and theater.

The report has drawn data from academic research, sales numbers and case studies. The key points the report makes are:

Movies based on books make more money than movies based on original screenplays.
Television shows adapted from books attract more viewers than other shows.
Theater plays and musicals rewritten from books make more money than other plays.
Books are a key source of content for movies, television and theater.

Would it be possible that one book series – Harry Potter – has affected to the sales and audience numbers so much that it has skewed the statistics. The Publishers Association’s report doesn’t go in that level of detail, but Harry Potter was the reason for increasing book sales in many markets during the book series’ heydays.
Publishers Association UK, report summarySource: The Publishers Association (UK).
The report concludes (among other points):

Works of fiction and non-fiction are a repository of stories to be discovered by producers, agents and scouts looking for ideas.
Book publishers act as a filter for quality storytelling and help polish and edit manuscripts into fully formed, engaging stories.
Publishers alleviate some of the inherent risk of a screen or stage production by investing in publication of the book, and allowing producers to choose stories which have already shown the ability to engage audiences.
The visibility of a book can make it easier to market an adaptation, using the original, already familiar brand.

What about self-published ebooks, like Hugh Howey’s works, 50 Shades of Grey, or The Martian that have become global success stories? They are a proof that it is possible to bypass the publisher filtering system. It is possible, but really difficult to do and it is rare that it happens, but some cases break through.

The key insight from the Publishers Association’s report is that books really are the centerpieces of content for many media industries. Not only movies, television and theater, but also games and music are often inspired by books.

Via Publishing Perspectives.

Typewriters may not make a return, but keyboards that imitate them are desired products

2018-07-25

There must be something magical in those loud and clunky keys that old typewriters have. Several keyboard products have been created during recent years that imitate the design and mechanical features of typewriters. One of the most stylish and most wanted (as indicated by the number of investors) keyboards is the KnewKey Rymek.

KnewKey Rymek keyboard
Rymek keyboard is connected to a computer with a USB cable, and to a tablet or phone via Bluetooth. Then, it can be used like an ordinary keyboard, but the big differences are long movement of the keys, proper sound when typing, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

If you use a tablet or a smartphone as your word processing application, you can drop the device into a holder that is located in the same place where paper used to be in old typewriters. Rymek keyboard must be charged once in a while because the battery lasts about 50 hours.

Rymek comes with a few special effects that some writers may find very attractive. It is possible to switch on lights in the keyboard, allowing the lights to blink while typing. The keyboard even has a large carriage return handle, but it is used for switching between Bluetooth and USB connections. A knob for turning the carriage is there as well, but its function is volume control.
Rymek keyboard for writers who want a typewriter
The Next Web had an opportunity to test the Rymek keyboard, and they were convinced that its most important feature – typing – was convenient and fun.

The production process for the keyboard started in July 2018, after investors at Indiegogo had poured in money to the product over 10 times more than the target was.

KnewKey delivers the product anywhere in the world, but it only comes with a US keyboard. The caps can be removed and their places changed. The retail price is set at 199 dollars.

Another keyboard that has borrowed its design and some features from old typewriters is Penna.

Here is a video that demonstrates Rymek’s features:

Rymek keyboard

Everything you need to know about the Honest Tribe that quietly minds its own business in Scandinavia

2018-07-10

The Honest Tribe refers to people of Finland in Max Boyle’s travel book that explores the culture of this Nordic nation. The author visited a number of cities and villages in different parts of the scarcely populated country, crossed lakes, and tasted the local beer. What was it that made an Englishman travel to Finland multiple times and what happened when he interviewed local people? Here is what the author Max Boyle told us.

What made you pursue the deep mysteries of the Finnish culture?

book cover image: The Honest Tribe by Max Boyle
My mother was Estonian, one of the ten per cent of the population who fled the country when, near the end of the war, it became apparent it would fall into Soviet hands. Through her, and my travels in Estonia, I became interested in Estonian national character – supposedly very quiet and insular – and wrote a travel literature book, The Indrawn Heart: An Estonian Journey, which incorporated an enquiry into how Estonians think and behave.

This task done, I began looking for another writing project. It seemed logical to turn to the Estonians’ neighbours and cultural cousins, the Finns. A reading of Richard D. Lewis’s Finland, Cultural Lone Wolf cemented the idea in my head and, in the autumn of 2016, I took off for the first leg of my Finnish journey.

What techniques or tools did you use during your field research?

When I travelled in Finland I had with me a photocopied page from Lewis’s book which presented alleged Finnish characteristics – sisu (the Finns’ famed never-give-up attitude), modesty, honesty, and so forth – in diagram form. I used this as a prompt to get my interviewees to offer views on Finnish national character. As far as possible I simply invited comments, though, without using leading questions, I would guide respondents towards specific attributes on Lewis’s diagram if they were struggling for something to say. This is especially true of Lewis’s ‘ultra-honesty’ verdict on Finns, and his attendant sobriquet ‘the honest tribe’, which I chose as my book’s title.

Was there a place or an episode during your travels that left a permanent trace on your mind?

During my final couple of days in Finland I was relaxing at an outdoor table of a Helsinki bar. I was joined by a young Finnish couple, who kindly bought me a drink, a cognac-vodka mix. ‘During the war there was a shortage of cognac,’ the gentleman commented. It was merely an aside, but it astonished me that a Finn of no more than thirty could refer to World War II with a degree of familiarity that suggested the conflict was within living memory for him. A preoccupation with the war, and the sacrifices it entailed for Finns, had also come through during an interview I’d conducted with a young woman in the town of Joensuu a week or two earlier.
You’d never find this in my country. For young Britons, the Second World War is as remote as the Middle Ages.

What is your key advice to travelers who arrive in Finland, and may occasionally find it difficult to understand local customs?

If Finns you encounter occasionally seem distant or stand-offish, don’t misconstrue this as unfriendliness or hostility. Finland is a ‘mind-your-own-business’ culture, and leaving you to get on with your own affairs is seen as courteous and considerate. Should you ask for help, however, you’ll find Finns more than obliging. This is especially true of those employed in service industries, where Finnish pride in doing your job to the best of your ability means the assistance you need will be readily forthcoming, and often with a smile and not a little charm.

Can you name five travel books that you would recommend to other travelers?

Colin Thubron’s Among The Russians is a long-standing favourite of mine. This 1980s journey around the USSR (and among many of its peoples, not solely Russians) is now a historical document of sorts, and a sobering reminder of this repressive state. The book’s chief merit, however, is its eloquence. Thubron’s writing has a poetic touch. Some find his style too wordy, but there’s barely another travel writer who could emulate it.

Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is also a joy to read. This account of his journey through Spain shortly before the country’s civil war is remarkable for being written from the perspective of the author as a callow youth who knew nothing of the land in which he was travelling. You’ll find no background or historical information on Spain in its pages, yet the book has long been a travel literature classic.

The Great American Bus Ride by Irma Kurtz is similarly unorthodox in that the book is devoted to the experience of riding Greyhound buses around the country, rather than any exploration of the USA per se. With many writers, such a book would become tedious and repetitive, but not with Kurtz, who holds the reader’s attention throughout the 314 pages.

Another engaging American journey is Jim Keeble’s Independence Day. The author’s travels are prompted by his being rejected in a love affair, but the book has a light and entertaining feel. I enjoy the way it reveals how travelling, and the change of environment and new stimuli it provides, can act as an antidote to one’s troubles and cares.

Tony Hawks’s Round Ireland With A Fridge is as unpretentious as the title suggests, and relates the tale of the author accomplishing the said feat in order to win a bet. It’s a daft yarn, and purports to be nothing more, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A fun read.

More information and sample chapters from the book can be viewed here. book cover image: The Honest Tribe by Max Boyle

Get our most downloaded travel guide for free

2018-07-08

It looks like the ebook Traveling in Scandinavia has quickly risen to the most downloaded travel guide we have published. We would like to think it is only because the book includes sample chapters from our best guidebooks that cover the Nordic countries. Perhaps true, but we can’t forget the fact it is a free download as well. Anyhow, here is how to get your copy.
cafe at Esplanade park in Helsinki
Scandinavian countries are known for their high-quality education systems, honest people, large wilderness areas, lakes, fjords, and a few successful brands, like Abba or Nokia. A Scandinavian country, Finland, and its capital Helsinki will be in the spotlight of the world on July 16th 2018 when the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the President of the United States Donald Trump meet in the city.

President Putin has visited Finland and Helsinki so many times that he doesn’t need a guidebook anymore, but perhaps someone from President Trump’s entourage could find The Best of Helsinki guidebook useful, or a guide where Helsinki tells honestly about her secrets.

Putin and Trump probably won’t have time to explore other parts of Scandinavia after the meeting, but if you have, we can recommend Lapland in the Arctic region, or Gothenburg on the prestigious West Coast of Sweden.

Traveling in Scandinavia is available as a free download right here Book cover image: Traveling in Scandinavia.

The most recommended places to visit in each country around the world

2018-06-26

If you want to visit the places that many other people are visiting, these are the most recommended destinations in each country. Tripadvisor collected the data from user comments and compiled a list of the best things to do in countries around the world. There are surprises, for instance, in Paris, the art museum Musee D’Orsay is the number one destination (instead of Eiffel Tower).

Denmark, Copenhagen, NyhavnNyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Here’s what tourists have recommended for a few countries in Europe that tend to attract travelers.

Denmark: Nyhavn (Copenhagen).
France: Musee d’Orsay (Paris).
Germany: Miniature Wonderland.
Greece: Acropolis Museum (Athens).
Italy: Colosseum (Rome).
Netherlands: Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam).
Portugal: Quinta de Regaleira (Sintra, near Lisbon).
Spain: Basilica Sagrada Familia (Barcelona).
Sweden: Wasa Museum (Stockholm).
Switzerland: Matternhorn (mountain peak).
UK: Harry Potter Studio Tour.

Vouchercloud map of Europe: best sightsMap by VoucherCloud.
If you are planning to travel in southern France instead of Paris, we can recommend the Castle Hill in Nice or the Royal Castle in Monaco as the key sights. This guidebook covers the Riviera region.

For explorers of the Nordic countries, a guide to the Arctic region of Lapland is essential.

In Portugal, Algarve is a popular year-round destination. Sagres is our recommended sight in South Portugal. This travel guide has more details for Algarve.

All the top recommendations around the world by Tripadvisor users presented as a map (by VoucherCloud).
VoucherCloud: map of world. Best places.

A community built for writers needs a platform strategy

2018-06-21

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg once said that online communities can’t be created. Communities exist both in the real world and online, and all you can do is to provide tools and services that attract community members to your platform. Writing Cooperative is a community for writers, but the story how it was born is quite exciting.
writers with laptops around coffee table, photo by rawpixelPhoto by rawpixel.

Two complete strangers Jessica Jungton and Sand Farina met on the brand-new blogging service The Medium when it was just launched. They realized they both wanted to have something that would help them and everyone else write better. Since Medium provided some rudimentary tools for editing, they started from there.

In 2014, the founders of the Writing Cooperative opened it for business. Writers quickly discovered the community, and the founders asked a few people to help them run the business.

Everything seemed to be going well until Medium changed the features it provided to its users. Since the Writing Cooperative relied completely on Medium, it was a major problem for the business. After some tweaks, things worked until Medium changed its functionality again.

Recently, Medium started charging visitors for reading articles. Accidental visitors can read three articles for free, and after that they have to purchase a monthly subscription. This new policy is bound to have a huge impact on the number of visitors who would like to read the Writing Cooperative every once in a while.

Today, the Writing Cooperative doesn’t rely on Medium alone anymore, but uses messaging service Slack for communication as well.

You can read the story with the founders’ remarks at ProWritingAid.

I am surprised that a fairly large community like the Writing Cooperative has stayed on Medium. The changes the platform does will never end. The community will encounter problems in the future as well. Writing Cooperative admits that they don’t know how their revenue from Medium is made up.

10 years ago, I was one of the founders of a network of small businesses. We needed online presence and tools. We settled on a platform (it doesn’t exist anymore) that was perfect to our needs because it was intended for small businesses. We started building on the platform, but pretty soon, we realized that we couldn’t rely on constant technical and business model changes the platform was having.

We created our own site. Fortunately we had graphic designers, programmers and writers in our network who could share the work. It required more initial work and money, but we were happy after it was done and live on the internet.

The nonfiction books recommended by Bill Gates for vacation period 2018

2018-05-22

For busy people, vacations are the best time to really concentrate on reading books. It doesn’t matter if it is a beach destination, mountains or a city holiday, because during the journey and in the destination, there should be plenty of time to enjoy a good read. Our experienced travel writers recommend packing ebooks only, because it is possible to carry a large library along without adding extra weight to a travel bag.
Bill Gates recommends non-fiction books
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who has retired from the company but manages a non-profit organization with his wife has always made sure he has time to read. Now, he has a list of five nonfiction books that he recommends for the summer 2018 (summer in northern hemisphere, that is).

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund. Gates says this is one of the best books he has ever read. The book talks about a breakthrough way of understanding basic truths about the world—how life is getting better, and where the world still needs to improve.

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. The biography explores Leonardo’s life and focuses on what made him so exceptional.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. This is a novel that blends historical facts from the Civil War with ghosts, including Lincoln’s deceased son.

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian. A book about humanity’s place in the universe.

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler. A cancer patient’s funny memoir about faith.

If you are planning a holiday in the sun in south Europe, for instance, in Portugal, take a look at the travel guide to Algarve, Southern Portugal. If you are planning a vacation in the Arctic, a guidebook to Lapland in Scandinavia covers the destination.

Via Fast Company.

Here is video clip where Bill Gates talks about the books he recommends for summer 2018.