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Kindle and other E-readers

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M. Leary   

I also received a Kindle and went on a binge downloading all the great Greek and Latin classics you can get for free. And a bunch of Melville and Joyce.

But I also am still trying to figure out how to best use this device. I was planning on having it basically replace my english and greek bibles, but so far I can't "flip" from book to book or passage to passage as quickly as I can with an actual book.

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I also received a Kindle and went on a binge downloading all the great Greek and Latin classics you can get for free. And a bunch of Melville and Joyce.

But I also am still trying to figure out how to best use this device. I was planning on having it basically replace my english and greek bibles, but so far I can't "flip" from book to book or passage to passage as quickly as I can with an actual book.

Yes, "flipping" would appear to be a problem that I'm not sure the medium can easily overcome. It's one thing to flip from one page to the next. The Kindle handles that just fine. But there's no way that I can see to grab a big chunk of a book and, say, flip forward two hundred pages. And toggling between multiple open books would be very nice. Let me know if you figure that one out.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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CherylR   

Christmas brought the long-awaited Kindle, and the early returns are positive.

One of the delightful surprises for me was the abundance of free books available from the Kindle bookstore.

My only quibble concerns page numbering. Or more correctly, the lack thereof. Given the 6-inch display screen, it’s obvious that conventional page numbering will not work. And given the fact that different editions of the same book will use different page numbers, it’s probably not a big deal anyway. But it’s a little disconcerting to see a progress bar (marked off by percentages) at the bottom of the screen, and to see fairly bizarre bookmarks (I’m currently at 10,897 of 13,097 in Tom Jones, for instance) instead of page numbers. Since we’re currently three-quarters of the way through Tom Jones in my book club, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge to provide the locations of specific passages I’d like to discuss. I’ll get used to it. It’s just a little odd.

The free books are addictive. ::w00t::

The lack of page numbers is something I've not gotten used to, either. I'm not a fan of the progress bar, that's for sure. I've taken to looking up the actual book on Amazon to find out how many pages a printed book has, just to give me a grasp of the size. Then the progress bar makes some sense. Sort of.

But I also am still trying to figure out how to best use this device. I was planning on having it basically replace my english and greek bibles, but so far I can't "flip" from book to book or passage to passage as quickly as I can with an actual book.

The inability to flip between books or passages is one of the biggest drawbacks to e-readers, I think.

Edited by CherylR

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M. Leary   

Yes, there is no searchability feature that matches the sheer ease of an actual codex. It never ceases to amaze me that ever since the scroll to codex transition in the first few centuries AD, mankind has never found a better way to transmit written information than the simple book bound on one edge. And the percentage meter at the bottom is distracting for me. It has begun to quantify my reading experience in a vaguely totalitarian way.

That said, I absolutely love this thing for reading books that are intended to be read cover to cover.

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Does Amazon make money on the Kindle?

The story doesn't divulge any hard numbers, but suggests that the 3G version of the Kindle is being sold as a loss leader. As I read, I kept wondering why the non-3G model wasn't mentioned. Wouldn't that model make up the bulk of Kindle sales to this point? I realize nobody knows the answer to that except the Amazon accountants, but it's an educated guess that adopters over the years have gone for the lesser-priced model.

Meanwhile, I've been exploring the possibility of giving e-readers to some church volunteers who do weekly service for the congregation (communion preparation, coffee for the break period between the service and discussion time). Each year we've given them a gift card for a local grocer of sorts (Trader Joe's). Trouble is, the e-readers all cost a bit more on the low end than the amount of money we've spent on each gift card in years past. Borders keeps sending me discounted e-reader promotions -- first for its Kobe ($99), and now $130 for the Sony and $120 for the Velocity Micro.

Something tells me the best route to go would be the $139 Kindle, which is highly rated and which everyone seems to love. It's close enough in price that, were I given approval to purchase an e-reader, I don't think I could find justification for buying another device, even at a slightly lower price point.

So, let me ask those of you have an e-reader, or want one: Would you be happy if someone gave you an e-reader other than the Kindle?

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Only the Nook is a good alternative as a gift. People can have good reasons to choose one of the other models, certainly, but as a gift I would only give one of those two--and then give a gift receipt in case they preferred the other.

I doubt that you would have any incentive to get the Nook over the Kindle, though, since the Nook costs $10 more, and the Kindle seems to be more popular (although I do have several friends who own Nooks).

Edited by David Smedberg

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Only the Nook is a good alternative as a gift. People can have good reasons to choose one of the other models, certainly, but as a gift I would only give one of those two--and then give a gift receipt in case they preferred the other.

I doubt that you would have any incentive to get the Nook over the Kindle, though, since the Nook costs $10 more, and the Kindle seems to be more popular (although I do have several friends who own Nooks).

Thanks, David. Any reservations about the Nook among your friends that have one?

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None, as far as I've heard. Their comments were generally "Isn't this neat? I read more now that I own it."

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Guest Pax   
Guest Pax

Regarding the "would I take another e-reader?"...

The e-reader market will completely dry up in the second round of tablet/slate computers when hybrid displays come out. So, while I'd certainly such a generous gift, I'm personally going to holdout for e-ink on a hybrid tablet or slate device.

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An exciting trend: Young readers are responding to e-readers.

Something extraordinary happened after Eliana Litos received an e-reader for a Hanukkah gift in December.

“Some weeks I completely forgot about TV,” said Eliana, 11. “I went two weeks with only watching one show, or no shows at all. I was just reading every day.”

Ever since the holidays, publishers have noticed that some unusual titles have spiked in e-book sales. The “Chronicles of Narnia” series. “Hush, Hush.” The “Dork Diaries” series.

At HarperCollins, for example, e-books made up 25 percent of all young-adult sales in January, up from about 6 percent a year before — a boom in sales that quickly got the attention of publishers there.

I can't see an immediate downside to kids reading instead of watching TV, but I'm sure there must be a downside.

Right?

I'm not anti-TV for kids (except for kids under 2). I think some TV can be fine. But I'm old-school in thinking that books are better.

Edited by Christian

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Here is all I know, I was skeptical of an e-reader, then did a ton of research, and virtually every reputable review I did gave the highest marks to the Kindle. I purchased one, was $139 not the $400 as stated earlier. It is my absolute favorite gift to myself I may have ever purchased, outside of my primary bass guitar. I have about 50 books now on it, of which I paid less than $20, most have been free, and I have read more since January 1 than I did all of last year, and I read a lot. I have had no issues with it, and would gladly take it over the other readers. The lending feature is now available with Kindle, although I never use it. The only feature that continues to come up is the lending from the library feature with the Nook, I have spoken to many Nook owners who have told me that they can't get the books they want, have to place an order for 5 books at a time from the library, and usually have to wait 2 weeks before getting one of those books. I just don't have to worry about it, and like I said, 90% of the books on my reader, were free.

From a die hard skeptic, who has turned into a full-fledged lover of the device. I have been overwhelmingly, pleasantly surprised. As to a reading audience. Let me say this, I have sold approximately, to best of my knowledge since December around 500 paper back and hard back copies of my book The Keystone Kid. Last weekend alone, I sold 127 e-books via Kindle. An astronomical difference and as an author, I will make that trade off any day.

As to the differences between the nook and the kindle. I would be glad to comment on my experiences of trying both prior to purchase, and from purchase.

Edited by Mike Furches

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The printed book's physicality presents a challenge to e-books, however convenient they are. We tend to remember the look and heft of a book that we fell in love with. Will we feel the same about the ghostly glimmerings of a monitor? In his superb "A History of Reading," Alberto Manguel caught this aspect of old- fashioned reading to perfection: "I too soon discovered that one doesn't simply read 'Crime and Punishment' or 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.' One reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover."

- from Eric Ormsby's Wall Street Journal article A Life Well-Read

A History of Reading looks pretty interesting actually. That one single quote might have just sold me on the entire book.

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It turns out women dig the Nook Color. Magazines designed for the color Nook are selling like gangbusters. The article suggests that guys like e-readers that do other things -- so, an iPad, etc. But I don't know why the Kindle would be selling so well. It doesn't do other stuff, or do it well, does it? Isn't it mainly an e-reader?

From the article:

On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do — by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers — and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.

But publishers also believe the resonance of the Nook Color among women highlights the vast difference in consumer markets. Some women, at least, seem to prefer their electronic reading devices to be simpler, something they can read on. Tablets with Rock Band, GT Racing and high-res cameras? That’s guy stuff.

And Barnes & Noble has marketed the $249 Nook Color toward females. Ads show women and girls reading it in various states of relaxation and repose: at the beach, in bed, on the couch. On Barnes & Noble’s Web site, a bubbly woman named Kate walks users through a guided tour on how to use the device.

The company has not said how many Nook Colors it has sold, beyond putting the figure in the millions and saying that it is the most successful product in Barnes & Noble’s history. But since November, the company said more than 1.5 million magazine subscriptions and copies of single issues had been sold on the Nook Color. This week, in an attempt to build on the success of its reading devices, Barnes &Noble is expected to debut a new e-reader.

I'm all for the success of e-readers, and for more reading in general. But I remember seeing a chart comparing the different e-readers and being shocked by the lame battery life of the Nook Color. I guess the people who like the device just deal with that and aren't unhappy about it.

David Smedberg has a Nook, although I don't think it's a color version. Anyone have the Nook Color?

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Guest Thom Jurek   
Guest Thom Jurek

It turns out women dig the Nook Color. Magazines designed for the color Nook are selling like gangbusters. The article suggests that guys like e-readers that do other things -- so, an iPad, etc. But I don't know why the Kindle would be selling so well. It doesn't do other stuff, or do it well, does it? Isn't it mainly an e-reader?

From the article:

On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do — by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers — and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.

But publishers also believe the resonance of the Nook Color among women highlights the vast difference in consumer markets. Some women, at least, seem to prefer their electronic reading devices to be simpler, something they can read on. Tablets with Rock Band, GT Racing and high-res cameras? That’s guy stuff.

And Barnes & Noble has marketed the $249 Nook Color toward females. Ads show women and girls reading it in various states of relaxation and repose: at the beach, in bed, on the couch. On Barnes & Noble’s Web site, a bubbly woman named Kate walks users through a guided tour on how to use the device.

The company has not said how many Nook Colors it has sold, beyond putting the figure in the millions and saying that it is the most successful product in Barnes & Noble’s history. But since November, the company said more than 1.5 million magazine subscriptions and copies of single issues had been sold on the Nook Color. This week, in an attempt to build on the success of its reading devices, Barnes &Noble is expected to debut a new e-reader.

I'm all for the success of e-readers, and for more reading in general. But I remember seeing a chart comparing the different e-readers and being shocked by the lame battery life of the Nook Color. I guess the people who like the device just deal with that and aren't unhappy about it.

David Smedberg has a Nook, although I don't think it's a color version. Anyone have the Nook Color?

I'm not female, but I do like my Nook Color; especially because when rooted, it is a fine Android tablet that works as well as any of the expensive ones and has expandable memory ( I got mine on sale from B&N's EBay store for $199 a few months back). Just yesterday Barnes and Noble announced another budget e-reader, which is e-ink with a touch screen. It's smaller than the Kindle, but only because it doesn't have a physical keyboard. The price is right around 134 dollars. The only reason I might regret NOT having bought a kindle is that Amazon has many more obscure titles in its inventory,--especially in non-fiction--from Harold Bloom's "The Anatomy Of Influence: Literature As A Way Of Life" to David Toop's excellent : Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship Of The Listener. Kindle Books lists them both; Barnes and Noble does not.

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I went to a Barnes and Noble to try the Nook Color out, and thought it was pretty nifty but I couldn't see myself liking it as much as the e-Ink version. For one, the battery life is too short. For another, at a certain point having apps like Angry Birds would distract me from reading! I can see the author's point though, if I read glossy magazines (the male version of these are probably sports magazines like SI) then I would have a strong incentive to get the color screen.

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Thom Jurek wrote:

: I'm not female, but I do like my Nook Color; especially because when rooted, it is a fine Android tablet that works as well as any of the expensive ones and has expandable memory ( I got mine on sale from B&N's EBay store for $199 a few months back). . . . The only reason I might regret NOT having bought a kindle is that Amazon has many more obscure titles in its inventory . . .

You can get a Kindle app for the Android, though, so you should be able to read any and all Kindle titles on your rooted Nook, no?

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I like that there is a Nook, Kindle and book app for my iPad 2.

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I like that there is a Nook, Kindle and book app for my iPad 2.

This is what I've done. Though there is a large part of me that will probably be buying either the new touch screen nook or the new touch screen kobo. There is just a LOT of distraction with the iPad and everything else I use it for. I love it for books, but it's far too easy to quickly move to something else.

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I would converse more... But I really have to get back to book. After I check out a few other apps. ;)

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Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing

Spam has hit the Kindle, clogging the online bookstore of the top-selling eReader with material that is far from being book worthy and threatening to undermine Amazon.com Inc’s publishing foray.

Thousands of digital books, called ebooks, are being published through Amazon’s self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

Instead, they are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.

These ebooks are listed for sale – often at 99 cents – alongside more traditional books on Amazon’s website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want.

Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.

This new phenomenon represents the dark side of an online revolution that’s turning the traditional publishing industry on its head by giving authors new ways to access readers directly. . . .

Globe and Mail, June 16

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Amanda Katz, "How We Read Now", Boston Globe -

If you’re an adult who reads books today, you are an immigrant from that foreign land - a “digital immigrant.’’ You may love your new iPad, but you were raised in the old country of bookstores, marginalia, the scent of paper, flap copy written on actual flaps. Meanwhile, the toddler playing with his parents’ tablet today will grow up a “digital native,’’ as accustomed to the one-click book purchase as you are to a dust jacket.

Resolved: to raise my kids to love and appreciate the actual printed word.

Last year, the publishers surveyed by the Association of American Publishers saw 8.3 percent of domestic net sales from e-books. Three months into this year, Simon and Schuster’s e-book sales had climbed to 17 percent of revenue; at Hachette, parent company of Little, Brown, the figure was 22 percent. From November to May, according to a Pew Internet Project study, the percentage of American adults with a dedicated e-reader (like a Nook or Kindle) leaped from 6 percent to 12 percent. Another 8 percent now have tablets. To add a little context, fewer than half of Americans even buy a book in a typical year. So for 12 percent of all Americans to have an e-reader is not trivial.

Meanwhile, print sales are down about 25 percent. Physical bookstores, including the Borders chain, which is in bankruptcy reorganization, are on the rocks, rapidly adding stationery sections and ticketed author events to make up for plummeting book sales. And Amazon, which offers books in every possible format but is heavily promoting its proprietary Kindle device, announced in January that it is now selling more copies digitally than in paperback.

Although, there is some question whether the large stationary and specialized sections did not, in fact, play a major role in Borders' demise.

Even after this year’s e-book surge, we still buy a large majority of books in paper. At least for now. Among the digital holdouts I’ve spoken to, the mood is more “unconvinced’’ than “over my dead body.’’ A number of people did tell me, somewhat apologetically, that e-readers just weren’t for them: They love print books and don’t enjoy reading on a screen. “Maybe I spend so much time on the computer that I don’t want to spend more time on the computer,’’ said David Rabkin, director of current science and technology at the Museum of Science. Some readers resorted to the “old dog-new tricks’’ defense. “I’m just too old for it,’’ said Chris Kimball, publisher of Cook’s Illustrated. Wellesley College philosophy professor and poet Ifeanyi Menkiti agreed: “I’m the man that time left behind.’’ Beyond this general resistance to change, some holdouts listed more specific objections. Readers who adore book arts are disturbed by the uniformity of books on e-readers like the Kindle, which imposes a standard font and page size.

They need better objections than this. Little aesthetic problems like uniformity, standard font and page size can all be remedied with more technological innovation. I suspect the argument, if it's going to be made at all, will have to go along Neil Postman lines of what reading and studying off of a screen instead of pages in a book does to your reading comprehension.

E-book readers are more likely to be frequent travelers, who appreciate being able to pack just one device and replenish their reading supply as needed. Daniel Johnson, a poet and director of the nonprofit 826 Boston, was still reading in print, but understood the appeal of an e-reader for travel: “What a disaster if you arrive in Thailand and you crack that one book that you brought, and then, three paragraphs into it, you just can’t stand the narrator!’’ As long as you don’t drop it in the ocean, an e-reader makes that problem obsolete.

Not a problem you ever need to have with just a little minimum planning and foresight.

Then there’s the matter of what you read. Voracious readers of genre fiction - like romance novels and thrillers - don’t necessarily feel the need to display their books on the shelf forever, and they’re already used to their books being disposable and cheap. (One friend of mine used to exchange huge shopping bags of paperback romance novels with other women in her college dorm.) Today, sales of mass-market fiction - those small-format paperback “airport novels’’ - are in freefall, as readers switch en masse to digital.

If most of mass-marketed fiction wants to go the way of e-readers, let 'em. They take up a ton of room in the bookstores anyhow.

Carole Horne, general manager of the Harvard Book Store, has observed the phenomenon among her customers as well. “People come in and say, ‘I read this on my iPad, and now I want to own it,’ ’’ she said. “And they buy a copy of the book. I particularly find the language interesting, because everybody says exactly that: I want to own it. As if somehow having it on their e-reading device is not really owning it.’’

And this is the hitch. For the last 1,500 years or so, the idea of the book and the book as object have been indivisible. We readers respect and adore long-form writing, whether it is argument, explanation, history, how-to, or story - and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t take digital form. But digital immigrants are used to the book being something else, too: a tangible object, and a symbolic one. We kiss our holy books; we build beautiful libraries, temples of learning; we scan the shelves at our friends’ houses and strike up conversations with book-reading strangers. We want books to fit comfortably in our hands. We gaze at our shelves to remember what we’ve read, and make stacks on bedside tables of the books we’ll devour next.

This is the aesthetic argument again. While I appreciate and identify with it, I think these objections can still be taken farther. If a book is an object, then it's going to work in a particular way. When I read a book I own, I underline, write in the margins, fold corners of pages to go back to, and generally get to know the book as the object that it is. When I take out a book that I've read like this 6 or 8 years later, I can find my way around it and go back to the section I wanted to find. Honestly, I don't have memories of works I've read online like I do of books I've read with my hands and pen.

Right now, the race is on to develop the best digital platform for reading. But ultimately the real question will be the inverse: not how books make technology evolve, but how technology changes books and the people who read them. You might want to remember this time; snap a few mental photos. Within a few years, the literary culture of 2011 will be a foreign country, too.

Over my dead body.

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Lawrence Block is an odd writer for me. I will buy his Matt Scudder books in hardback day of their release, but--with a few exceptions (Nona, Killing Castro, Small Town (!))-- I skip the rest of his work after having sampled and decided it was not for me.

He's recently begun releasing his older books as ebooks, and had an interesting blog post about it recently.

http://lawrenceblock.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/a-tip-of-the-hat-to-john-locke-and-a-wink-to-russell-blake/#comments

His comments in the, well, comments, are just as interesting.

Looking back over my own 2011 reading list, I have read more books on paper than Kindle this year, primarily due to wanting to read new books from some favorite authors immediately through library holds rather than wait for their Kindle prices to drop to paperback levels. I don't fine the experience of reading a book on Kindle any different from reading a library book.

I am willing to admit that I liked having bookshelves with hundreds of books for a visitor to see, but I liked having a CD wall that did the same, and both were too difficult to childproof and so their content now sits in (easily accessible) boxes.

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NBooth   

From Scroll to Screen

But so far the great e-book debate has barely touched on the most important feature that the codex introduced: the nonlinear reading that so impressed St. Augustine. If the fable of the scroll and codex has a moral, this is it. We usually associate digital technology with nonlinearity, the forking paths that Web surfers beat through the Internet’s underbrush as they click from link to link. But e-books and nonlinearity don’t turn out to be very compatible. Trying to jump from place to place in a long document like a novel is painfully awkward on an e-reader, like trying to play the piano with numb fingers. You either creep through the book incrementally, page by page, or leap wildly from point to point and search term to search term. It’s no wonder that the rise of e-reading has revived two words for classical-era reading technologies: scroll and tablet. That’s the kind of reading you do in an e-book.

The codex is built for nonlinear reading — not the way a Web surfer does it, aimlessly questing from document to document, but the way a deep reader does it, navigating the network of internal connections that exists within a single rich document like a novel. Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides. Imagine trying to negotiate the nested, echoing labyrinth of David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” if it were transcribed onto a scroll. It couldn’t be done.

FWIW, in my own use of the Kindle I find it easier to read nonfiction than fiction. It never occurred to me that this might be the reason, but I think it makes sense; I could never, say, easily flip back to a previous chapter and double-check opposing stories (as I did several times while reading the Red Riding quartet or Agatha Christie's The Clocks). A straightforward account (or a book of essays) does lend itself to the don't-look-back reading encouraged by e-readers.

Edited by NBooth

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