Can We Achieve Better Editing Outcomes With Digital-First Publishing?

28 July 2015

From BookBusiness:

For all you authors and editors who have wrassled a long novel to its editing conclusion, there is one constant truth: you will always have regrets when looking back at some annoying error(s) that slipped through much to your bewilderment.

Let’s face it, all authors and editors would love to achieve a flawless work every time. But with hurried schedules, editing tracking tools that themselves open doors to new errors, multiple editorial projects in the hopper at various stages of development, plus business, and employee demands on our time and attention, this goal is admirable yet unlikely to be consistently realized.

. . . .

This discovery has to do with the benefits of publishing first in ebook format and then waiting one year for the print-on-demand edition. This has allowed our authors and me to gain some necessary distance from the novel-wrassling, love/hate deadline process, so we can revisit the work with fresh eyes after it has been published as an ebook to make one final editorial sweep before locking it into print.

The end result has allowed us to fix issues that in many cases were most likely only evident to the author (e.g., foreign name spelling inconsistencies, the occasional copyediting style inconsistency), but also other more embarrassing fixes all too commonly found in many traditionally published books. These annoying issues can lose readers quickly, especially if they come in bunches early on. Even more so if a reader paid $27.95 for an error-riddled hardcover edition.

Link to the rest at BookBusiness

How to Publish Ebooks – an Ebook Publishing Intensive by Mark Coker

26 July 2015

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

This article has been perfectly formatted for maximum reading comprehension

17 July 2015

From Quartz:

In the US, about 30 million adults struggle with basic literacy. The inability  to read proficiently  has wide-ranging economic consequences, affecting a person’s ability  to get  and hold onto a job, as well as increasing the likelihood one would rely on government assistance.

But one tech company believes something as simple as increasing the size  of spacing between certain words could improve people’s reading comprehension. Research going back decades has found that “chunking,” a technique that separates text into meaningful units, provides visual cues that help readers better process information.

Grounded in this thinking, San Francisco-based Asymmetrica Labs  has created a tool that uses an algorithm  to logically insert spaces  to websites’ text. A free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, Asym automatically reformats English text without affecting a site’s overall design.

. . . .


“Some struggling readers, or low-literacy readers, will read one word at a time,” Nicholas tells Quartz. “We’re nudging eye-movement patterns that good readers on their own have done naturally.” He says  the technology could also benefit strong readers when they’re tired or under stress  and could also improve their reading speeds.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Here’s a link to the Asym site.

Cliff’s Notes for Bestsellers: E-Readers Accelerate the Book Summary Business

16 July 2015

From Observer.com:

Andy Weir, author of bestselling novel The Martian, knows that there are people out there making money off of e-books that summarize his novel. “I’ve seen a few of the summaries for sale, but I haven’t read them,” he told The Observer via email. “I don’t mind. They act as free advertising.” His book will get the Hollywood treatment this fall, with a film version starring Matt Damon.

There’s a robust business going in summarizing popular books. Devices for reading digitized volumes (from e-readers like the Kindle to tablets like the iPad) have dramatically expanded the potential market for shorter versions of full length books.

Since the company that defines this market is Amazon, we’ve focused on the summary business as seen through the Kindle Store, but these summaries can be found for sale on Google Play, Barnes & Noble and in the Apple Store. Some companies even have their own channels.

. . . .

We looked at the ten most popular e-books in the Kindle store at the beginning of July and found that only three of the top ten had any summaries published for them yet. Those that did, had several versions.

Here are the three bestselling e-books from that list that had summaries.

  • #3: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (2015, Riverhead). Seven summaries.
  • #9: Paper Towns, by John Green (2008, Dutton). Four summaries. A film based on the book is due out later this month.
  • #10: The Martian, by Andy Weir (2014, Crown). Five summaries.

Right now, each title’s e-book is selling well below the typical $9.99 price of a mainstream e-book on Amazon. Their summaries are listed anywhere from $0.99 to just under the book’s digital cover price (though the BookRags summary of Green’s novel is selling for $9.99, $6 over its current cover price).

The book we found in our search with the most summaries was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (2014, Ten Speed). Nine different companies have offered summaries of the book. Ms. Kondo did not return a request for comment.

. . . .

Do summary providers rob authors of sales, or are they enhancing readers’ experience of books?

The real answer is probably a little bit of both, but more the former. Dig into enough reviews of summaries and you’ll find lots of people who bought them believing they were the full book.

. . . .

“You can’t copyright an idea. If you tell me an idea and I go away and express that idea in my own words, it doesn’t break your copyright,” Mr. Belbin said.

Link to the rest at The Observer and thanks to Dave for the tip.

New Publisher Canelo Offers UK Authors Strong Incentives

14 July 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

In the UK a new digital publisher called Canelo releases its first titles this week and will discover over coming months whether its bold, innovative approach will work. It is operating in a different way to most publishers in that it is not paying advances, but offering its authors much higher royalties, starting at 50% and going up to 60%. It is also signing titles on short, five-year licenses, giving authors the option to take titles elsewhere if they wish, and is rediscovering old authors and backlist titles, presenting them afresh to a new audience.

. . . .

“One of the reasons we started Canelo is that there aren’t a huge number of digital publishers in Europe,” he said. “We certainly think the sector has a long way to go and we want to be at the forefront. Our offer is completely different. We are making the case to agents that we are offering a different model, which has all the same levels of investment, editorial attention and expertise, design, marketing and publicity, but offers the author a better deal and much more flexibility. They aren’t locked in. Generally, people are receptive, as they can see that authors can make more money this way and have more freedom, whilst being published to the highest standard.”

. . . .

Agents have had something of a battle with UK publishers on ebook royalties and point out that to find the higher rates Canelo is offering they often have to look overseas. One commented: “We have more success in securing higher rates for ebooks from European publishers, than we do from the UK or the US — and that is significant because these publishers are often paying for the translation too.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Dana for the tip.

In the E-Book Economy, Big Authors Lose Money to Big Publishers Losing Ground

14 July 2015

From The Observer:

Readers might think that buying an electronic copy of an author’s book on their Kindle delivers more profit to writers. After all, the marginal cost to a publisher for each e-book is effectively zero (that is, the cost to publish an additional unit). It turns out, though, that if you’re buying a book from one of the big publishers, the writer earns less than he or she would had the reader purchased a paper copy, according to data collected by The Authors Guild.

On the other hand, the big publishers are not as good at selling e-books as indie authors, who keep all the money after Amazon takes its cut. According to data from Author Earnings, the major publishers command a smaller and smaller proportion of the bestselling e-books on Amazon every month.

The Authors Guild argues that there’s no reason why the profit split should differ from paper books to electronic. They offer data from several major titles to illustrate that authors have deals that short them on income for e-book sales.

. . . .

One might think that, since publishers have managed to gouge their writers on e-book royalties, they would have a strong incentive to move digital units, but they are losing ground in the e-book economy every month.

The fifteen month trend-line for the big five publishers (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster), in terms of market share of e-book bestsellers, has been downward. The top companies had 20 percent of the titles in the Amazon bestselling ebook list in February 2014, 19 percent in January 2015 and 14 percent in May 2015.

What have those companies been doing in the last several months to increase their share of the e-book market? Naturally, they have been increasing cover prices for digital titles, which is a tried and true way to up sales, right?

. . . .

Small and medium publishers are also staying flat. Meanwhile, indie published books are going up. In terms of unit sales, indie publishers pulled ahead of the big publishers around the beginning of this year.

The argument for sticking with major publishers in the era of digital publishing has long been that they can deliver value and drive more sales. What an author gives up in terms of control is more than made up for in profit that the big guns of literature can deliver.

However, as  the big publishers lose market share, that argument grows specious. In fact, increasing cover prices is especially problematic. Authors’ job security comes from building an audience. Higher prices will cut into sales, making it harder for these writers to build a following that can support them when time runs out on their present employers.

Indie publishers are winning, in part, because they are just a bit less precious about their books. The average price of indie published e-books has been hovering around $4. It even went down a little, recently, since the leading publishers’ prices went up.

Link to the rest at The Observer and thanks to Anonymous for the tip.

Why erotica writers are upset with Amazon

13 July 2015

From CBCRadio:

Amazon has announced changes to how it pays self-publishing authors. The changes apply to books that users borrow through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle’s Lending Library. Instead of paying authors a flat rate when someone borrows one of their books, it will now only pay authors based on the number of pages actually read — a rate as little as $0.006 per page.

This has some authors up in arms — especially those who write short stories, cookbooks, children’s books, and erotica. They say the change disproportionately affects their shorter-length works and that they can no longer make a living wage with the new pay structure. We talk to erotica writer Lexie Syrah, who has pulled all eight of her titles off of Kindle Unlimited and is calling on other authors to do the same.

. . . .

Your books are quite short. Why is that?

I went into writing shorts because that’s what the people are asking for. People read erotica for a variety of reasons, but most people read erotica because they want to feel excited. They want to have a fantasy. And so they don’t want to read 200 pages about the colour of a bed or the setting of a bedroom. They want the down and dirty. And they want it right now.

. . . .

So you’ve taken all of your publications then off of Kindle Unlimited. Where do you go from here, what are your other options for making a living?

Well, I still sell my books on Amazon. That is in no way associated with Kindle Unlimited. But I am really starting to utilize a site that I found called Smashwords. Honestly, I wish I would have found Smashwords far before I ever found Kindle Unlimited. They make it very easy as somebody trying to self-publish. They have a How-To manual that really does just state everything you need to know to be able to format your book.

. . . .

Could you not argue that the new system that Amazon is implementing when it comes to the Kindle Unlimited might actually be more fair? Because it rewards those writers who keep readers reading and gives them more of an incentive?

I’m not saying that people with very large books that are good, that keep them reading.. I mean that’s a great thing, that’s awesome for them.

But it’s not that I can’t keep my readers reading or that any of the other short story erotica writers aren’t keeping their readers reading. It’s the fact that their books are only supposed to be so many words long. I currently have 17 books. It doesn’t take that long for any individual person to get through that many erotica stories.

Link to the rest at CBCRadio and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens

10 July 2015

From FastCompany:

Thanks to technology, we’re reading more than ever—our brains process thousands of words via text messages, email, games, social media, and web stories. According to one report, the amount people that read tripled from 1980 to the late 2000s, and it’s probably safe to say that trend continues today. But as we jam more and more words into our heads, how we read those words has changed in a fundamental way: we’ve moved from paper to screens. It’s left many wondering what we’ve lost (or gained) in the shift, and a handful of scientists are trying to figure out the answer.

. . . .

[M]any researchers say that reading onscreen encourages a particular style of reading called “nonlinear” reading—basically, skimming. In a 2005 study out of San Jose University, Ziming Liu looked at how reading behavior changed over the past decade, and found exactly this pattern. “The screen-based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading, non-linear reading, and reading more selectively,” Liu wrote. In the face of endless information, links, videos, and images demanding our attention, we’ve adapted our reading to fit our screens.

But this style of reading may come at a cost—Liu noted in his study that sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in-depth reading. “In digital, we can link in different media, images, sound, and other text, and people can get overwhelmed,” explains Andrew Dillon, a professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin, “These are disruptive activities that can carry a cost in terms of attention.” Another study by Rakefet Ackerman Technion-Israel Institute of Technology also supports the idea that paper is sometimes less distracting than our computers. The researchers found that when people read short nonfiction onscreen, their understanding of the text suffered because people managed their time poorly compared with when they used paper (although paper’s advantage disappeared when people were given a fixed amount of time to read the text). Other studies have also found costs when people multi-task online in both efficiency and the quality of work they create (like a written report) based on their understanding of what they read.

Nonlinear reading might especially hurt what researchers call “deep-reading”—our in-depth reading of text that requires intense focus to fully understand it, like the works of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf. “Skimming is fine for our emails, but it’s not fine for some of the important forms of reading,” says Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf. “If you word-spot James Joyce, you’ll miss the entire experience.” Wolf says that since humans didn’t evolve to read, we have very plastic brain circuits for this particular skill and our brains easily adapt to whatever medium we read. If we habitually browse and word-spot, Wolf explains, our brains will favor that type of reading even when we crack open Ulysses.

Link to the rest at FastCompany and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG is a pretty digital guy, but he still proofreads documents where every word has to be right on paper.

However, he reads both fiction and nonfiction books exclusively on an ereader or tablet.

Half of Net Proceeds New Standard for Trad Pub EBook Royalties

9 July 2015

Author John Ellsworth received an email from The Authors Guild which he posted on his blog, forwarding a link to PG:

From Authors’ Guild 7/9/15:

We announced our Fair Contract Initiative earlier this summer. Now our first detailed analysis tackles today’s inadequate e-book royalties. At the heart of our concern with the unfair industry-standard e-book royalty rate is its failure to treat authors as full partners in the publishing enterprise. This will be a resounding theme in our initiative; it’s what’s wrong with many of the one-sided “standard” clauses we’ll be examining in future installments.

Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights. Authors generally received an even larger share than the publisher for non-print rights (such as stage and screen rights) and foreign rights.

But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us.

We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture. The author writes the book, and by any fair measure the author’s efforts represent most of the labor invested and most of the resulting value. The publisher, like a venture capitalist, invests in the author’s work by paying an advance so the author can make ends meet while the book gets finished. Generally, the publisher also provides editing, marketing, packaging, and distribution services. In return for fronting the financial risk and providing these services, the publisher gets to share in the book’s profits. Not a bad deal. This worked well enough throughout much of the twentieth century: publishers prospered and authors had a decent shot at earning a living.

How the e-book rate evolved

From the mid-1990s, when e-book provisions regularly began appearing in contracts, until around 2004, e-royalties varied wildly. Many of the e-rates at major publishing houses were shockingly low—less than 10% of net receipts—and some were at 50%. Some standard contracts left them open to negotiation. As the years passed, and especially between 2000 and 2004, many publishers paid authors 50% of their net receipts from e-book sales, in keeping with the idea that authors and publishers were equal partners in the book business.

In 2004, we saw a hint of things to come. Random House, which had previously paid 50% of its revenues for e-book sales, anticipated the coming boom in e-book sales and cut its e-rates significantly. Other publishers followed, and gradually e-royalties began to coalesce around 25%. By 2010 it was clear that publishers had successfully tipped the scales on the longstanding partnership between author and publisher to achieve a 75-25 balance in their favor.

The lowball e-royalty was inequitable, but initially it didn’t have much effect on authors’ bottom lines. As late as 2009, e-books accounted for a paltry 3–5% of book sales. Authors and agents ought to have pushed back, but with e-book sales so low it didn’t make much sense to risk the chance of any individual book deal falling apart over e-royalties. We called the 25% rate a “low-water mark.” We said, “Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won’t put up with this: they’ll go where they’ll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work.”

E-books now represent 25–30% of all adult trade book sales, but for the vast majority of authors the rate remains unchanged. If anything, publishers have dug in their heels. Why? There’s a contractual roadblock, for one: major book publishers have agreed to include “most favored nation” clauses in thousands of existing contracts. These clauses require automatic adjustment or renegotiation of e-book royalties if the publisher changes its standard royalty rate, giving publishers a strong incentive to maintain the status quo. And the increasing consolidation of the book industry has drastically reduced competition among publishers, allowing them more than ever to hand authors “take it or leave it” deals in the expectation that the author won’t find a better offer.

The elephant in the room

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Amazon, which has used its e-book dominance to demand steep discounts from publishers and drive down the price of frontlist e-books, even selling them at a loss. As a result, there’s simply not as much e-book revenue to split as there was in 2011when we reported on the e-book royalty math. At that time, publishers made a killing on frontlist e-book sales as compared to frontlist hardcover sales—at the author’s expense—because, as compared to today, the price of e-books was relatively high.

When we analyzed e-royalties for three books in the 2011 post, “E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins,” we found that every time an e-book was sold in place of a hardcover, the author’s take decreased substantially, while the publisher’s take increased.

Since 2011, we have found that publishers’ e-gains have diminished. But the author’s share has fallen even farther. Amazon has squeezed the publishers, to be sure. The publishers have helped recoup their losses by passing them on to their authors.

These were our calculations for several books in 2011. The trend was obvious. Compared with hardcovers, each e-book sold brought big gains to the publisher and sizable losses to the author when the author’s royalties are compared to the publisher’s gross profit (income per copy minus expenses per copy), calculated using industry-standard contract terms:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss = -39%

Publisher’s Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain = +33%

Hell’s Corner, by David Baldacci

Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss = -37%

Publisher’s Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain = +27%

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss = -17%

Publisher’s Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain = +77%

What’s happening now? We ran the numbers again using the following recent bestsellers. Because of lower e-book prices, the publishers don’t do as well as they used to, though they still come out ahead when consumers choose e-books over hardcovers. But authors fare worse than ever:

Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doer

Author’s Standard Royalty: $4.04 hardcover; $2.09 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss= -48%

Publisher’s Margin: $5.44 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain: +7%

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.90 hardcover; $1.92 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss= -51%

Publisher’s Margin: $5.10 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler

Author’s Standard Royalty: $3.89; $1.92 e-book.

Author’s E-Loss: -51%

Publisher’s Margin: $5.09 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.

Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%[1]

Exceptions to the rule

It’s time for a change. If the publishers won’t correct this imbalance on their own, it will take a critical mass of authors and agents willing to fight for a fair 50% e-book royalty. We hope that established authors and, particularly, bestselling authors will start to push back and stand up to publishers on the royalty rate—on behalf of all authors, as well as themselves.

There have been cracks in some publishers’ façades. Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret. We’ve also heard of authors with strong sales histories negotiating 50-50 royalty splits in exchange for foregoing an advance or getting a lower advance; or where the 50% rate kicks in only after a certain threshold level of sales. For instance, a major romance publishing house has offered 50% royalties, but only after the first 10,000 electronic copies—a high bar to clear in the current digital climate. But overall, publishers’ apparent inflexibility on their standard e-book royalty demonstrates their unwillingness to change it.

We know and respect the fact that publishers—especially in this era of media consolidation—need to meet their bottom lines. But if professional authors are going to continue to produce the sort of work publishing houses are willing to stake their reputations on, those authors need a fair share of the profits from their art and labor. In a time when electronic books provide an increasing share of revenues at significantly lower production and distribution costs, publishers’ e-book royalty practices need to change.

[1] In calculating these numbers and percentages for hardcover editions, we made the following assumptions: (1) the publisher sells at an average 50% discount to the wholesaler or retailer, (2) the royalty rate is 15% of list price (as it is for most hardcover books, after 10,000 units are sold), (3) the average marginal cost to manufacture the book and get it to the store is $3, and (4) the return rate is 25% (a handy number—if one of four books produced is returned, then the $3 marginal cost of producing the book is spread over three other books, giving us a return cost of $1 per book). We also rounded up retail list price a few pennies to give us easy figures to work with.

Likewise, in calculating these numbers and percentages for the 2015 set of e-books, we are assuming that under the agency model—which is reportedly the new standard in the Big Five’s agreements with Amazon—the online bookseller pays 70% of the retail list price of the e-book to the publisher. The bookseller, acting as the publisher’s agent, sells the e-book at the price established by the publisher. The unit costs to the publisher are simply the author’s royalty and the encryption and transmission fees, for which we deduct a generous 50 cents per unit.

Link to the rest at John Ellsworth and here’s a link to the Authors Guild website

Here’s a link to John Ellsworth’s books

Paper Chasing

9 July 2015

From The Point:

In Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, a hapless suitor named Ned Rosier courts the innocent Pansy Osmond. Rosier is best known as a lifelong collector of tiny books and trinkets called bibelots. After Pansy ejects him, Rosier liquidates his collection of bibelots, hoping to become rich enough to impress her father. This move backfires immediately: those close to Pansy tell Rosier that he would have been better off to keep his “pretty things,” and that his collection of knickknacks and books was “the best thing about him.”

Here as elsewhere in Portrait, a novel by a writer who believed above all else in the enriching power of literature, we see books made into objects of novelty, vanity and status. Isabel Archer, the book’s protagonist, never picks up a book for more than a few minutes before becoming sleepy or distracted; the journalist Henrietta Stackpole, meanwhile, serves primarily as comic relief, writing all her friends and acquaintances into her articles. This literary materialism certainly does not reflect James’s own attitude—he would rather his characters have just read the books rather than collect them—but it is also not particular to the cast of Portrait, or to aristocrats like Rosier.

Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them. While moving into my new apartment this month I found myself casting long, admiring glances at my full bookshelves, straightening out folded pages and making sure the spines were perfectly lined up. I have devoted most of my moving time to arranging these shelves; books accounted for probably 90 percent of the weight I had to lift up three flights of stairs into my apartment. When I move out in two years, I will have to do it all again. Why do I—why do we—devote so much time, energy, space and money to these $15 hunks of paper? Why do I risk compressed discs every time I move into a new apartment? Or, to put it another way: Why don’t I just buy a Kindle?

Because I love books—or so I tell myself. But what exactly am I talking about when I talk about “books”? When I say I love Tao Lin’s Taipei, for example, am I talking about the enriching experience of reading that novel? Or am I talking about my physical copy of Taipei, whose glittery spine looks especially dazzling sandwiched between Primo Levi and David Lipsky? In order to distinguish my hobby of collecting books from, say, my mother’s hobby of collecting ceramic iguanas, I have to claim that it is distinguished by the experience of the reading itself.

. . . .

The way I treat my books shows that no matter how important they are to me as things to read, they also exist as decorative objects and status symbols.

Luckily for me (and all other similarly afflicted book lovers), recent technological advances have provided something like an alternative to this “literary materialism” in the form of e-books. If collecting physical books distracts me from a humbler and less self-centered reading experience, then eliminating the physical component of the books seems like it would help to eliminate the vanity that comes with them. I could free up a lot of shelf space, make a fair amount of money at used bookstores and clean my environmental conscience, all while getting the same edification that I have always gotten from novels and essays. The only downside is that nobody would be able to tell from visiting my apartment that books are my body and soul.

Link to the rest at The Point and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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