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Author Topic: kindle publishing
micmcd
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I got to reading about Kindle publishing a while back, and I was wondering what the opinion of this board is on the platform. Anyone can publish a work to the Kindle, and things can be bought one the dedicated store -- it reminds me of the iPhone app store. Has anyone tried publishing there?

I can only assume that traditional publishers would frown on doing this, as it is a form of self-publishing... but do people really care? You can always pick a nom de plume if you want to avoid the wrath of the stodgy old industry.

I'm starting to believe that innovations like this will push traditional publishers the way of traditional newspapers -- not dead, but not the strength they once were. You'll never replace the smell of a book and the feel of paper to some... but to others this is a welcome advance.

Publishing completely on your own would be dangerous ground, but it is a great direct market and the barrier to publication is nil. If there were editors, even amateur editors, who wanted to work with you to get your WIP ready for publication on the Kindle, would you go for it?

FYI - authors retain the rights to publish their work in other mediums, though of course a traditional publisher would likely turn their nose at something electronically published. Their tune might change if that something had 80000 sales, of course. I've read estimates that there are on the order of 500,000 Kindles out there, and their popularity is taking off.

What do you think?


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Christine
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I don't think your book would do well if it were only available through kindle. The comparison to newspapers isn't quite right, since legitimate news sources have sprung up all over the internet. The publishing world would have to change a lot more for your self-published (essentially) kindle to do well. Publishers do more than print a book. The MOST IMPORTANT thing they do is sift through the slush pile and eliminate 99% (or more) of it. They only bring in editors to polish off the books that are already top notch.

So in order for self-publication to work, even in e-form, you would need a reputable independent agency to sponsor books that they feel are worth reading and readers would learn to trust those sponsors.

But hey...they already exist! They're called publishers.

Now, at the moment straight e-publishers who do not to print runs are looked down upon and I think that will change in the future as things like the kindle become more popular.


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micmcd
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Do you ever wonder, though, if they over-stuff the slush pile? Because of the high cost of printing, they are extremely reluctant to take on a book unless they are 100% sure of it working. By comparison, it is almost cheaper for the New York Times to purchase all subscribers a Kindle than it is for a year's worth of paper publishing. (I swear I had a reference for this off of a CNN article I read, but the link is evading my momentary searching... will update if I find it).

Also, when you say it wouldn't do well -- what do you mean by well? If "only" 1000 people bought your book, would you consider that to have done well? Not if you're OSC or some world-famous author, but if it was your first try?

quote:

you would need a reputable independent agency to sponsor books that they feel are worth reading and readers would learn to trust those sponsors

No such agency (reputable and popular... people who already do it may be out there) exists focused on Kindle publishing yet. The only thing that makes an agency reputable is length of existence and track record. Someone could start one, and what better time than when the market is so young?

quote:

at the moment straight e-publishers who do not to print runs are looked down upon

So what? If that agency's goal was to gain the respect of the traditional publishing agency, then they might care. But what if they didn't? Why worry about the establishment when they're trying something completely different? And what if the electronic nature of this "agency" allowed them to focus more on the whole experience of fiction, if authors were inclined to do it? Some authors already have what I call "peripheral fiction," or web shorts, encyclopedias, world intros, etc. to compliment their novels. A strong web presence is exactly how you'd advertise an electronic novel, and an agency dedicated to this, focusing on the segment of the population already sufficiently techno-phillic to read on a Kindle, might be in a good position to do that.

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 11, 2009).]


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micmcd
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An interesting scenario:

Before the iPod, I rarely branched out in music. Maybe I heard a part of a song by some new band, but I wasn't wiling to drop $12 to $15 on a chance that I might like them. What if most of the songs suck, or even if that one song I kind of liked part of sucked? Enter digital music -- now I easily take chances on recommendations or just snippets. Sure, I miss sometimes and buy songs that I end up not liking, but... it's only a buck. Indie rock, by bands that you never hear on the radio, is well worth a $1 shot... but it wasn't worth a $15 shot.

Would you take a chance on an unheard-of author that wasn't on the "Hot new people" display at Barnes and Noble? Probably not if the book was a hardback $25. But what if it was only $3? And you didn't have to go out of your way to get it? If you liked the author, hooray! If not... it's not as big a waste as some paperbacks I've purchased and decided 1/3 the way in that I didn't like.

Moreover... what if you could go to an e-publisher's web site that was a repository of good fantasy and scifi worlds, with snippets and purely web-based fiction? And you liked one author... and it only cost $3 to grab a whole work based in the fantasy world you just read a short story in that you found intriguing?

I dunno. I think there's room for it, and room to break out of the rigidity of the old industry.


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micmcd
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ePublishers are out there...
http://nicemommy-evileditor.com/blog/?page_id=2191

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TaleSpinner
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The iPod is so hugely successful because it's so tiny you hardly notice its weight and volume. Why would I want to carry a Kindle when I'm already carrying a Netbook? Ficitionwise do a range of download formats that I can read on the Netbook, some copy-protected, so I see no benefit to consumers or publishers in Kindle. (The benefit to Amazon is that Kindle ties consumers into Amazon in the same way as iTunes ties us into Apple.)

I think that if it takes off, Kindle will be a triumph of corporate monopoly-building over consumer value.

Worse, it's only available in the US and there are no plans to make it global. (iTunes is available in several countries, if not everywhere.) Such narrow thinking on Amazon's part is a surprise and a disappointment.

I think electronic publishing will happen in the near future, and we see the start of it in online services like Flash Fiction Online and Fictionwise. I think dedicated reading devices will have to be as unobtrusive as iPod to make it big time; Kindle seems to me more like an e-book equivalent of a Dansette than an iPod.

I also think that established publishers will (have to) learn how to do it electronically. Just yesterday I bought two technical books about areas I know nothing about, on the basis of trusting the publisher (Oxford University Press), because I need authoritative books and have no other way of judging that. The same is true of fiction: I trust Tor more than others and that makes selecting a book easier and faster. (Which is not to say that new publishers could not establish a reputation on-line; but Oxford's goes back a while and would be hard to beat for several years.)


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Christine
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micmcd: I would probably consider 1,000 books sold as a success for an unknown author, but which 1,000 people are going to buy that book?

It's more than cost. You can get cheap books from popular authors as well or you can go the library. A novel is an investment in TIME. This is different from a song on an Ipod. You can spent a couple of minutes of your life listening to a song by an unknown artist and decide hey, that's kinda cool. Not so with books.

Books sell by word of mouth. Someone reads it, likes it, gets their friends to read it, and so on. This is a very difficult process to begin since most people are wary of books that are not already very popular.

Or, to put it another way, what are the last 12 books you read?


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micmcd
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I've never paid attention to publisher in selecting the books I read. Perhaps my idea that this might work is based on how I browse -- I go to the scifi/fantasy section and just look till something catches my eye. Of course, I have authors that I always look for the next big thing out of, but I can't name the publisher of any author, no matter how famous, off top of my head, even those for whom I have almost all the books they've written.

I tend to pick one, that looks vaguely like it might be about what I'm into, read the back cover to confirm topics, then read a few pages to see if I dig the writing style. Once I hit an author, I'll read his/her stuff till it is exhausted... so... last 6, in reverse chronological order with reason I picked it up:

  • Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch (author loyalty)
  • The Lies of Locke Lamorra - Scott Lynch (random pickup, mostly b/c of a killer title, dug the prose after investigation)
  • The Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie (author/series loyalty)
  • Before They are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie (author/series loyalty)
  • The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie (random pickup - attractive cover, cool title, browsed the prose and dug it)
  • The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss (random pickup - title, cover, back panel description, and prose. this also had a KILLER first 13 -- check it out if you never have, just for "best first thirteen ever" knowledge: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/books.asp)

I didn't go further than 6 because I can't remember. I think I was on a sci fi kick for a while, and then The Name of the Wind got me back on fantasy.

TaleSpinner: With regards to publisher trust for technical books, I think you're dead on. I was thinking only of fiction publishing. Nonfiction has a big resource up-front requirement -- fact checking / expertise. I can't imagine the amount of work that goes into revision and editing of a biography. Even opinionated political writing has to run through a gauntlet (or it should be). In tech-y stuff, there are already publishers that do electronic publishing as a focus (Pragmatic Programmers and O'Reilly come to mind) - you can buy "beta" versions of the books before they are published, and you can update your PDF for free. You can also buy "dead tree" versions if you'd like.

Anyhow, I don't think there's a way to be an upstart nonfiction publisher without serious investment (on the order of $1 million to survive the first year). Fiction, on the other hand... depends mostly on whether or not the upstarts are as good as they think they are - and they wouldn't lose much if they were wrong (cost of a web site plus time... that's it).

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 11, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 12, 2009).]


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micmcd
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One other thing -- with respect to "they'll just check it out in the library." Young adults these days don't frequent libraries... even the ones that read a lot. I never think of the library as a place to get the latest books, which is always what I want to read. For most of their lives they've been able to do the things that traditionally force people into libraries early in life - school research projects - online.

Also, would you rather spend $1.50 on gas, plus an hour or so browsing, to go to the library (and hope that nobody has checked out the copies of what you are interested in, or $3.00 to just own a copy, and you never have to leave home?

To some the library itself it worth the experience even if you don't get a book, but I suspect that the proportion of the population who feels that way is dwindling as the years go by.


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tchernabyelo
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quote:
Worse, it's only available in the US and there are no plans to make it global. (iTunes is available in several countries, if not everywhere.) Such narrow thinking on Amazon's part is a surprise and a disappointment.


I'm not convinced that it's narrow thinking. I think it may have more to do with the quagmire of international law and copyright. Copyright across the globe is broadly common and well-established for music and visual media, but is still very different for books (because they have been around so much longer). Look at Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh and Disney's attempts to control those; they can control certain visual depictions but can't stop a publisher in the UK producing an edition of Peter Pan.

American copyright is in general more restrictive than elsewhere so I think they are playing it cautious unti ebook copyright/DRM issues are more stable.


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Christine
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Very few people know any publishers or pick books (knowingly) based upon them. But how do you suppose those books got into a place that you were likely to be looking for them? A publisher picked it up, got reviews from top-notch reviewers, convinced bookstores to buy up copies and take a gamble.

How many books do you suppose are at your local B&N?

Amazon.com has MILLIONS of books. How would you find one if you don't know what you're looking for? What criterion would you use to search?

Writing is a hobby but publishing is a business and there are no easy answers. It may be cheap to produce an e-book but it is not cheap to market it. I've learned some hard truths over the last couple of years as I've spent countless hours talking to bookstores, holding book signings, getting on radio shows, convincing magazines to review my book, attending literary festivals, handing out book marks...and I have not sold 1,000 copies of my book (which is in both print and e-book format). It's even gotten very good reviews from the people I can convince to read/review it. I've received a number of 4 and 5 star reviews...but not from the very prestigious reviewers like publishers weekly or the new york times. I'm competing against hundreds of thousands of authors and new book titles. I'm traditionally published but with a small press that does not have the clout of others in the biz. If I didn't have them, I don't think I would have sold 100 copies, though. Not on my own.

I'm considering my first novel to be a learning experience and I plan to have my second novel published with a bigger press, one with more weight in the market, one that can hopefully get my book seen by people with real sway.

Kindle can list millions of titles by unrepresented authors because it costs them almost nothing. They can put them all up for $3.00 and if nobody buys a certain book, it's no skin off their teeth. But out there I hear the hearts of millions of new authors breaking as they realize that having a book available for purchase, even at a reasonable price, does not get it sold. They still have to convince people to read it. They still have to fight their way through the slush pile.


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Christine
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Just to clarify: I think e-books are going to become more and more popular in the future and I think more traditional publishers are going to e-publishing. I also think new e-publishers will begin to fill the market. I think that in a few years, it will be fine to have a book published primarily in e-book format, as readers like the kindle become better and cheaper. But self-publishing, whether through print or e-book format, is unlikely to work. Not impossible....there are always exceptions...but unlikely.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The paren at the end of the URL makes it so your link doesn't work, micmcd.

The first 13 of The Name of the Wind:

quote:
My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.

"The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.

"The Thunder" I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.

I've never thought of "The Broken Tree" as very significant.



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KayTi
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I've had my hands on a Kindle, it's a really amazing device. I read a lot on my iphone, but I find it a bit cumbersome (lots of scrolling.) I would love the kindle for the larger screen alone (and "digital ink" which can print a picture/set of words on the screen and leave them there, without worry of ruining the screen the way you have to protect a computer or television screen from having burn-in images from overuse.)

One of the big advantages of a Kindle is that as part of your purchase you get wifi access to content (rather than having to add yet another digital subscription to your annual tally.) I think the biggest downside to the Kindle right now is a takeup curve/cost equation. I haven't bought one yet because I don't buy that many books (and I am a big fan of hardbacks, so when I buy I often buy from the library used sale so I can feed my hardback addiction.) The technology will start to cost less to produce, the ebook formats will start to be simpler/more widespread which should bring the cost down, there will be more Kindles sold, etc. There will likely be better competing products in the coming years (better than the sony reader, which as I understand isn't much of a comparison.)

The biggest downside with pushing content out there yourself is that to get any readers you'll have to draw them in. You wouldn't have the benefit of a publisher's name or marketing arm (in as much as they have them, my understanding is that many authors do much of the marketing for their titles themselves) wouldn't have the benefit of shelf space at a store, readings would be more challenging to arrange at local bookstores since they wouldn't be selling your product, etc. Getting the word out so that 1000 copies were purchased seems to be the biggest challenge.

However, the iphone app store has made more than a few millionaires in the last 12 months. I heard an interview with one game designer from the 80s who is replatforming his games for the iphone and he sold something like 700k copies of his most popular game in the last 12 months. That's unheard of in the gaming world. So, I think it bears mentioning that there are some game-changers out there in the electronic appliance marketplace - handheld devices that are short of computers like the iphone, other smartphones, the kindle, and others.

Meanwhile, just a plug, Flash Fiction Online did a version of one of our stories for the Kindle. I'm not sure if we're publishing others in Kindle format, but this one was really excellent (still available on FFO's website if you're interested and don't have a kindle.)


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TaleSpinner
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"it may have more to do with the quagmire of international law and copyright."

One of the technical books I bought was to do with law in relation to information security, and it talks about copyright.

Copyright law was brought into existence as a consequence of the invention of the printing press, and the UK's copyright law was first enacted in 1709. It only covered print. It was extended in 1734 to cover engravings, then again extended to other forms of art and in 1911 to protect "any record, perforated roll, cinematography film or other contrivance by which the work may be mechanically poerformed or delivered" -- music and moving pictures.

So I think copyright law is as well developed if not more so for print as for music. In the case of Disney and Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh and books being published in the UK, it seems to me that the UK has it right, for Disney didn't write either book.

It's true there are differences in copyright law around the world, for example in how long the copyright holder can protect the work and in terms of vigour of enforcement.

But the limitation isn't the law (iTunes protects music with technology, not law). It's the wireless download technology, easier to do in the US than elsewhere:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/feb/12/amazon-kindle

Narrow thinking: why, in the age of internet everywhere in the world, make a download technology that relies on US-only stuff?! (The iPod didn't; iTunes is an internet delivery system and works anywhere. They have different stores around the world with different pricing schemes so they can make download prices commensurate with local CD prices which, here in the UK for example, are double US prioes.)

When someone makes a competitor to Kindle that doesn't need US-only download technology, with formats that work on laptops and netbooks as well as e-readers, that might take off globally.

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 12, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 12, 2009).]


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arriki
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micmed said -- Would you take a chance on an unheard-of author that wasn't on the "Hot new people" display at Barnes and Noble? Probably not if the book was a hardback $25. But what if it was only $3? And you didn't have to go out of your way to get it? If you liked the author, hooray! If not... it's not as big a waste as some paperbacks I've purchased and decided 1/3 the way in that I didn't like.

I already do that. I go to the library and browse for free. If I find a book I really like, I may go out and buy a copy.


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micmcd
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quote:

Narrow thinking: why, in the age of internet everywhere in the world, make a download technology that relies on US-only stuff?!

Not that I'm an Amazon exec, but I can think of one good technical/business reason why not to. The Kindle uses cell phone 3g signals to download books, as opposed to the iPod which syncs with a computer. Computer -> internet is the same all over the world, but cell phone -> internet is not. In fact, from what I understand the American cell phone network is rather pathetic compared to the network in most of Europe and East Asia. The genius of the Kindle was that you could be sitting anywhere, anytime, and browse/download books for free (the book wasn't free, but the wireless bandwidth was). Unlimited 3G connection is part of the deal with the Kindle... maybe that wasn't as easy to achieve in other geographic markets -- or they didn't want to roll the dice with the major cash it would take to secure that kind of deal worldwide when they weren't even sure if it would be a hit in the States.

BTW - thanks for pointing out my broken link, KDW. It's fixed. Perhaps it was the intro that I think is "best ever" as opposed to just the first thirteen.

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 12, 2009).]


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TaleSpinner
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For Kindle to use wireless 3G isn't genius, it's narrow thinking. I have a wireless 3G connection on this laptop, in England, and can get the entire internet (including iTunes) on it, not just books.

They've made a narrow, localized design decision by depending on one connection technology--wireless 3G and a cell phone network design--that's specific to the US, instead of an internet connection technology that's everywhere. And they dressed it up with marketing, and bundled in services like loadsa access to books (which they could just as easily have done over the internet) to disguise the fact that it's a design for an Amazon monopoly.


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micmcd
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Don't know if it was narrow thinking though -- you can already use Sony's eReader to get internet access to books everywhere. Kindle's Whispernet was revolutionary -- people love being able to get stuff anywhere, anytime for free (bandwidth free, not book free), and they don't have to carry around an alternate device.

Actually, I don't own one (want, but not own) -- so I don't know if you can also just plug into a PC to download stuff. I know the non-international part is irking, but you'll have a hard time convincing me that turning the kindle into a bookstore-in-a-book was a bad idea. It wouldn't have taken off any more than eReader if it didn't have that feature.

Anyhow - the use of 3G network wasn't a monetary lock-in, it was a huge part of the popularity of the device. Besides which, Amazon has already announced plans to allow eBook purchases for other devices (though they did not give details as to a release date).


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TaleSpinner
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Hmm ... this discussion has prompted me to look at the competition -- the Sony e-book reader.

It works the same way as an iPod and iTunes. Downloads are over a standard internet connection (including my 3G thingy), and you can read the e-book either on the computer or on the Sony reader. The reader uses e-ink, like the Kindle. You aren't tied in to one retailer; here in the UK I could buy e-books from Borders, Waterstones, probably other retailers.

Kindle only works with Amazon. I think it's almost certainly bad for global publishing that a company with Amazon's commercial clout should go with an anti-competive product like Kindle. I'd mind less if, like Apple, they had a global perspective. But they don't. (Apple's objective is to sell iPods. Amazon's is to drive book purchasers to Amazon.)

Edited to add: For Amazon to deliver other e-book formats, like the Sony, would not be at all hard. I interpret "plans to deliver other e-book formats" as "plans to delay delivering other formats as long as possible in order to give Kindle a head start in developing market share," hence the refusal to announce dates for so doing.

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 13, 2009).]


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TaleSpinner
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On e-publishing itself, whether Kindle or Sony, I agree with what I understand Christine to have said. There's a risk that, by publishing direct via the e-bookstore, we move the slush pile off the publisher's in-tray and into the consumer's.

How to weed through all the new authors and titles for the good stuff? In that regard I think there's a role for e-publishers, with editors of taste like Gardner Dozois guiding us towards the pearls -- hopefully, some of it from Hatrackers ...

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited February 13, 2009).]


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