Facinating article by an author I've long admired. But this whole shift to e-book is bothering me. Nothing compares to having a printed book in your hand ... or maybe I'm just a dinosaur. I wonder if people realise that as soon as you go digital, you're going to loose a huge percentage of your work to piracy.
Posts: 78 | Registered: Sep 2009
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I don't understand why people are so worried about piracy. We still have music sales. We've let people borrow books from libraries for eons. I tend to think this is an overblown worry.
Posts: 823 | Registered: May 2009
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If a buch of figures I just saw are correct, eBooks currently account for a fraction over 2% of the entire book business (I think this is just in the US, and I'd guess that percentage is even lower elsewhere aroun the globe - one of the things the tech-geek early adopters often forget is that there is a BIG world out there and not everything adopted in the US is remotely universal). Yes, that proportion is increasing, and will increae further, but all announcements or suggestions that "the book is dead" are a touch premature.
The book will always survive for some things, anyway. I really can't see my art book collection working on eReaders, for example. eReaders are fine for purely textual work but (despite the hype about adding music and video content) are frankly not great for anything beyond that.
The fight for e-book sales is not for this year or next but the future. Some time ago, MP3s were curiosities for kids and techies. Have you looked at the CD section of any store lately? It has shrunk. Record stores have vanished.
The time might not be right now, but e-books might take off in the future and all of this positioning is with eyes on models similar to MP3s.
Having said that, I read a few e-books, but I don't buy any. I'd rather buy and read a book with real pages.
Piracy hurts the little guys, not the big industries. But that wasn't my point.
Sure libraries have a copy or two of a book that gets circulated serially, but that's not the same as thousand of copies getting electronically replicated and distributed simultaneously. An e-book is small, and much more easily distributed than a movie, or even a music file.
My point is that at the moment, authors in print have very little to worry about piracy (even though you can illegally download anything you care to name); in e-book format, they have a lot more to worry about. Will it put big authors out of business? Probably not. Will it hurt smaller authors trying to get going? Yes. Independent musicians/game developers/whatever go out of business all the time; would they have gone out of business anyway without piracy? Can't say.
My CGI business ran for a few years before the pirates noticed it, then, when my stuff started getting pirated, by sales dropped by aroung 50%. And CGI is a specialty item, unlike books which are much more general public. So as an author of a e-book how would you like your $10,000 in sales to actually be worth $5,000 or less in your pocket?
I don't think piracy is an overblown worry at all. Anyway, sorry, we're off topic.
My ebook reader is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, since the iphone, which is smarter than me and thus deserves special call-out. I'm a gadget girl, so I'm always pining for and adopting as early as is feasible these new techs.
However, even I held out on an ebook reader because I also really ENJOY the feeling of paper, particularly a hardback - I'm addicted to hardcover books, which makes my book addiction a rather expensive habit.
The ebook reader isn't replacing books I might have bought, it's replacing books i might have borrowed (library.) I'm replacing a borrow with a purchase. At least in my infinitesimally small use case, authors are making *more* money with my ebook reader than they'd have made if I didn't have it.
And I'm still buying hardcover books of certain titles (particularly of books I love and want to read over and over.) That's not going to stop.
For someone like me who reads *all the time* when I can squeeze it in, it's so nice to have an ebook reader that I can tuck into my purse, and easily prop on the exercise machines at the gym (and easily turn the pages without having to huff and puff while holding one side of the book down to keep it from falling off), on the counter while I dry my hair, on the kitchen table while eating breakfast, in my lap/on the dog while reading before bed. It's significantly *improved* my experience as a reader.
Just wanted to offer some reasons why ebook readers aren't all agents of the devil. Thanks for the link, kdw, this stuff is really fascinating to me!
My argument for why hard copy books will always be popular is based on my daughter's reading habits. She is 3 and we read every night. We look at the pictures, we sound out the words and she loves to flip the pages. I just cannot envision a parent reading a good night story over the e-book. The tactile sensations are for a 3 year old a hugely important part of the reading (and many books make use of this and have fuzzy bunnies to touch or whatever). So, our first impressions of reading come with all the tactile sensations of a book. And they probably always will (though I suppose Apple could come out with the page flipping, fuzzy bunny feeling Ipad for tots). Which means our first forays into reading are with real books. And so, the sensation of reading will be tied to that. Sure, we'll love our ebooks for their portability and convenience and space saving features (my own house house tons of bookshelves all filled and then boxes of less loved books in the garage), but at heart, we'll always want the touch of a real book. It is what we were raised with and it will always be a part of us. And so, for those special books, the books that transport us to other worlds, that we want to read a million times, that have also become a part of us, we will buy them in hard copy. And we won't begrudge those books a place in our already cluttered homes.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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What I love about ebooks is that I can adjust the brightness - and more importantly I don't have to hold it!
I can lie back comfy, my finger on the mouse or arrow button, adjust the screen just right, increase the font to perfect.
I will never go back to paper books. They are smelly and take up too much space, and I need to have my lights on to read them. I prefer reading in the dark, allows total immersion.
The best part is I can eat snack and chips and read with out holding the book up - the screen does everything. And my pages are always crip and clean!
If I do get the urge to hold a book, I have my EEEpc, that looks feels and weighs like a small novel. I just use a screen rotation software so the entire page fits sideway - it's looks and feels exactly like a real book. To flip the page I just tap my mouse button. I also have a 17inch laptop to read to massive 100 page lecture notes. Can also read my novels on it in - it's like having a giant tome!
I've bought so many ebooks and online textbooks...can never go back to paper. I refuse to!
As far as ebook piracy - yeah it's a worry. I like to think that it won't happen to me if I ever get published, but the rate of piracy is high - it'll happen to you the minute you become popular. Not sure how to resolve it.
I think they should just make a book really cheap. People wont fret pirating books that are like 50cents to a dollar. It's not cost effective to pirate, and the average joe won't want to bother stealing something that really a bargain.
I know people tend to undervalue the quality of the work based on the price. Maybe we need a pricing system for books alone! 35 Lit-bucks! Goodness for that price it must be good!
I live in a small apartment and I'm trying to eliminate clutter, so I agree with billawaboy about books taking up too much space.
I do like to flip pages, but I also like clear surfaces. I held one of those e-book reader thingies with "digital ink" and I must say, though I love books, I love that little thingie more. It's almost like reading from a page, brightness-wise (not annoying as reading from a laptop, for example).
I'm not a consumerist, I don't get excited about gadgets or bigger TVs. I despise all that. Simple living is what I like.
But, clearing out the space books take and having them all in that gadget sounds very okay to me.
I think many other people who grew up online will think the same thing.
Owasm, I agree this is all about positioning for the future - Amazon probably shot its bolt TOO early with its dedicated platform (particularly at the ridiculous prices it charges - you cn buy a laptop for less than the larger Kindle!) and is flailing around trying to keep as much control as it can. Max Kindle sales apear to be around the 2,000,000 mark (Amazon won't actually reveal figures - they could be a lot lower), which although it's a lot in some regards, is tiny compared to the potential market for non-dedicated eReaders (though I'm not yet convined the iPad is the thing to eclipse it).
But there are a lot of people (particularly Kindlefreaks) who are claiming that "the book is dead RIGHT NOW!" and they are sooooo far from being right that it's just embarrassing. Even if eBooks clib to 50% of the US market - which inside five years they might well do - that is still a long way from the death of the book. Bookstores are having problems, yes, just as record stores did - but that is largely because of the ability to order ANY book online whenever you want, not because of electronic delivery as an alterntive to the physicl product. Big bookstores can't carry inventory without heavy costs. Internet bookshops (like Amazon) can.
This discussion is not just limited to books vs e-books. I work at a newspaper, and there is a major industry concern because print newspaper publication subscribers are dwindling, while online viewers have skyrocketed. The problem is the online content has been, traditionally, free. How do you think the reporters & staff get paid to gather, write, and publish the news? From print sales. Fewer print sales = fewer services.
I think we recognize the world as a whole is changing dramatically, in the way we get and distribute information. Technology is still in its infancy and it's changing faster than we can keep up with. The way the "system" of distributing information, be it news or fiction, will continue to evolve over our lifetimes.
My suggestion is: be on board with the changes, but don't be married to them. Don't let the parade of technology pass you by, but realize that today's fancy e-whatever will mostly likely evolve into something we cannot even imagine.
Or can we? Aren't WE the ones who are supposedly speculating about tomorrow's future technology via our fiction?
Maybe online news readers are going to have to get used to a lot more in the way of advertising. For some reason, I was under the impression that advertising pays a huge part of print newspaper costs, or it did, if it doesn't now.
Posts: 603 | Registered: Jul 2005
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The troubleis, much of the online advertising bubble has burst - it used to be seen as the way to make everything pay, but there's just so much competition from people who need ads to make their sites pay that the advertisers are the ones calling the shots, which doesn't work.
What the internet lacks is some kind of nominal hashcash pool, where you can be charged very very tiny amounts of money for activity on given sites. If a site gets a million views at 1c/view, that's a lot of cash, even though no-one has actually paid much individually. But policing how the viewer knows what they are being charged and when is a huge problem - there are obviously a lot of scamming possibilities with such a system. Some subscription-type models would work for regular users but the casual browser is the market that needs to be captured (if you have a choice between reading two similar news pages, and one demands you to have filled out a subsription... I think we all know what happens there).
It is indeed a problem in that people expect the internet to be "free", but to continue to provide quality for nothing is frankly an unsustainable model. At some point, the "free" to "nominal cost that I barely notice" expectation has to shift, but it's going to meet a lot of resistance, particularly from a generation who have experienced it free and have a major sense of entitlement that they should just be able to have it (even though they don't balk at paying hundreds of dollars for the devices on which they receive the information, they magically believe information is "free").
Another forum I frequent has an interesting system. People pay the forum host site cash and in exchange, no one has to see ads on the forum (well for a set number of views so if only one person looks a day it last longer then if 1000 people look in one day). I am surprised I haven't seen that set up in more places.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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With the explosion of "alternative" news sources, such as blogs, print newspapers are definitely in an odd spot. Because unless they're offering something extraordinary that can truly be found NOWHERE but in the pages of the fishwrap, people will often opt for the "free" avenue.
Posts: 386 | Registered: Sep 2008
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I agree wholeheartedly with Brad. I hate to think of a world where we all live detached from our senses. Case in point: I love the outdoors. I love the sounds, the smells, the feel of the breeze on my skin. Technology can make promises to provide a virtual experience, but it isn't even close to the real thing. Same with books. I love how they feel, the "realness" of it. In contrast, an e-book seems cold and detached. What's next, an implant in our head that feeds images straight to our brain? Does anyone want to live in a world where technology has become a substitute for every form of recreation? Technology has its place, but when it comes to the pleasures of reading, count me out of the e-book equation.
Posts: 456 | Registered: May 2009
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A lot of people think "Oh well, I'll just get my news from the free sources," but they don't realize how the "free sources" work. They gather their news from service bureaus, like Associated Press. Associated Press is an international, non-profit, member only organization made up of many, many traditional print newspapers who all pay a fee to belong, and who contribute content. No print newspapers = no AP. Do you REALLY want to rely on getting all your news content from blogs written by people who were not actually present to witness, photograph, conduct interviews, or report on the events as they happened?
The degree to which biased, inflamatory conjecture and opinion is being passed off as "news" today is frightening. Of course, this scenario has been put into a fiction format before. I believe the title of the book was called "1984."
Free content, whether for newspapers or books, is never "free." There is a price we pay whether we realize it or not.
[This message has been edited by Elan (edited February 05, 2010).]
I have a Facebook Friend who lives in New Orleans. She and much of the town threw a fit over their local newspaper's failure to produce enough copies to satisfy the populace's need to hold proof of the Saints' recent victory. (Who the Saints are and what they won is beyond my concern.) The lesson is that newspapers still offer value where Internet sources can't--mainly with local news.
Print publishers need to pay more attention to their strengths and weaknesses in this time of virtual accessibility. Otherwise, people will accept that they won't get what they want and so ignore print completely.
I haven't purchased a newspaper in about ten years now. Newspapers could not provide the focus to their content that I wanted, and when the internet came along I found that focus. I subscribe to several internet websites that provide specialized news-like content for a fee, so it's not like I'm just being a cheapskate.
But anything longer than (the equivalent of) a 1 or 2 page article, I dislike reading on any type of electronic display I've come across. That's too bad because books do take up room and consume trees and the like.
I don't see an equivalence with digital music files because when talking about books versus ebooks it's the "playback device" that we're comparing, and regardless of the source of the electrical signal, people are still using the same speakers/headphones to listen to the music.
For me personally, audio books are the media that is most likely to displace the old fashioned paper book. I imagine that with an uber high quality text reading software one might have an ebook machine I would be interested in. Audio books are still a bit pricey, but ever since I discovered the "Weekly Reader" public radio show (not sure if that's the right title)many years ago, I've enjoyed listening a book recited by a good "actor" more than reading the same title.
Already it sounds like the the new Apple device is opening the door for reading to be more of a multimedia experience, perhaps leading to books that come with musical soundtracks and even short graphic dramatizations like those commonly found with computer games.
I do think that in the ebook world it will someday be possible for a "kid with a computer" to win a pulitzer without ever signing a contract with a publishing company. There is effectively no cost to Apple or Amazon to accept an electronic manuscript from you or me and put it out there on the "shelf".
Without a demand for paper books, publishing companies would be hurting for a niche.
Call me a cynic, but traditional newspapers can be -- and often are -- loaded with conjecture and bias. I've seen too many stories hyped, buried, or "spun" by the editorial board (or the reporter in question) to believe that the newspapers' so-called journalistic integrity is vastly superior to that of blogs.
But then, I used to read the Seattle P-I, so maybe that explains my grumpusitude on the matter.
I'm thinking an e-book reader---whatever form it might take---might be a handy way to have at my beck-and-call any number of public domain works. Going from the great works of literature I might take it into my head to read one day, to reference works I might want to consult. Handy, space-saving.
I suppose stuff still in copyright might find its way onto any e-book I might buy, too...
I did download the Kindle for PC and I do have a few books on ebook, but I'm with dee_boncci, I like audio books. I don't have any titles that I have both in paper and ebook version, but I do have many titles that I have both audio book and paper versions (like the entire Wheel of Time series and the Harry Potter series and several OSC). I do find it interesting to read a book myself, interpret it my way, then listen to someone else read it and their interpretation. Sometimes I get a whole new way of looking at the same story, and other times I like the way I interpreted it better. And now with all the pod casts that are out there, I have more content (books as well as short stories) then I can listen too, and most of the pod casts are free. I don't mind paying for an audio book, but the pricing does limit my ability to get as many as I would like. Once I get out of school and get a real job, I plan on seriously expanding both my hard cover collection and my audio book collection, yet I still probably won't buy an e-reader.
Posts: 212 | Registered: Aug 2005
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I don't have the patience to sit through an audio book. They take... so... freaking... long... to... read... out... loud... what I can zip through reading to myself. The inability to skim also heightens my frustration with writing quirks. For example, I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and loved it. Then I tried to listen to it as a book on tape, during a long car ride, and after two hours I started gagging every time yet another character "chuckled."
As I write this, I've lost power approximately ten times in the past two days. Though none of the outages has lasted more than 5 hours - and many have been much shorter - it's given me a new appreciation for books that don't require any outside power source (or even just batteries).
We've found the quality of the audio talent for audio books significantly impacts the listening experience. Of course the quality of book matters, too. I listen to audio books with my kids in the car, and while home doing things like making dinner, cleaning up, etc. It has expanded our ability to "consume" literature greatly. The kids have listened to all 7 Harry Potters, all 5 Percy Jackson books, and at least a dozen more - and that's just what we did in 2009. We've recently finished a number of Shannon Hale books on audio, done by a group called Full Cast Audio. Highly recommend! (THE GOOSE GIRL in particular.) We're currently listening to the BLACK CAULDRON, the second in the Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, also excellent (the voice talent reminds me of Jim Dale, who does the american Harry Potter audio recordings and does a good job of making the different characters sound different.)
Audio books enable us to listen to stories at a time when I can't read them myself because of other demands on my visual attention. My children benefit greatly from this, I've seen it in their language arts skill and ability to communicate themselves.
To address a point from a previous poster about ebook readers, if you haven't checked out one of the dedicated readers like the Kindle or the Nook, hold off making a final determination. The key difference is the use of "electronic ink" - which lets the devices run without backlighting. Reading on a computer screen is inherently fatiguing for the human eye, the brightness of the screen is a drain on our resources. Ebook readers are not designed to be backlit - they're designed to be books. Books don't come with automatic illumination, so the ebook readers don't either (although there are nifty covers you can buy that have a built-in light. I personally clip a book light onto my ebook reader to read while settling my kids for bed.)
My opinion is that the more we provide different mechanisms for people to consume stories, the more we'll benefit as writers.
The problem is, paper based books are heavy (try lifting a box of them when you are moving) and are a monetary liability. By monetary liability I mean that if you buy a book for $20, good luck getting $20 if you try to sell it. If you take it to a bookstore like Half Price Books, you will be lucky to get 25 cents for it. You might get $10 if it's in decent condition and you find a buyer that really wants it. But in order to do that, you have to use eBay, or search, and that can take time.
Also, America is gradually becoming a nomadic culture. So carrying around books doesn't make sense.
However, consider eBooks. On my 16 GB flash drive, I can store about 17,000 books on a device that is smaller than my car key. I can then, put it up on a big screen monitor and make the text as big as I want. I can also change the font of the text to whatever I want. With a book, I am stuck with the text being a certain size (need a magnifying glass if I want to make it bigger, but reading a book with such a glass is bulky) and a certain font. Having the book in electronic format is simply A LOT more convenient.
As far as piracy, I think what we need is a change in culture about art in general. If you like something, pay the artist that made it for you. The artist could do that on the first page of the eBook. Otherwise, if you buy a book, much of the money goes to sales, the publishing company, and so forth.
The same thing is happening with music except that musicians can compensate themselves through live performances (which people are still willing to pay to go see).
quote:try lifting a box of them when you are moving
It's not lifting a box that's the problem, it's lifting the 30th or 40th box that gets you....
I'm not going to knock the convenience of portability - if they'd had Kindles available when I lived out of two suitcases for two years, I'd have gotten one in a heartbeat (so much cheaper than the airline fines for overweight luggage!) - but I'm curious as to why e-books might be considered a better investment than print books.
Pardon my ignorance, but you can't resell an e-book, can you? I'm not missing something here? In which case even getting pennies on the dollar for a print book, or donating it for a tax write-off, would be a good deal. And if my apartment burns down, my insurance policy pays for the replacement costs of items not their resale value.
"Pardon my ignorance, but you can't resell an e-book, can you? I'm not missing something here? In which case even getting pennies on the dollar for a print book, or donating it for a tax write-off, would be a good deal. And if my apartment burns down, my insurance policy pays for the replacement costs of items not their resale value."
The thing is, about 99% of the time a print book is going to be something you plunked down $20 for that you won't ever see again. There are exceptions, but they are actually rare. I learned this the hard way by having shelves of books that over time, cost me well over $100. Had a hard time getting rid of them when I tried to move. Ended up giving them to an acquaintance. What did he pay me for them? Well, he bought me lunch. So whenever I buy a book (which is actually rare these days) I assume that it is money I will never see again.
And as far as living out of two suitcases for two years, with the economy the way it is, A LOT of people are going to be doing that. Makes better sense to store your books on a flash drive that you can put on your key chain next to your car key.
To be honest, the only print books I buy anymore are books I use for teaching English at school. This is because I don't know where I will live from year to year. I have been in Korea for 6 years but I have lived in various different places in those 6 years. Having too many books would add a significant amount of unnecessary bulk to what I would have to move when I go to a new place. Also, if I leave Korea, most of the books are probably going to be at the top of my list regarding things I'm going to leave behind. This is going to be true for quite a lot of people.
Unless you have a place you KNOW you are going to keep for years, books just don't make sense. E-books make a lot more sense.
When we moved from the UK to the US, we shipped a total of 41 boxes of possessions.
I believe that more than 30 of those were boxes of books. At leats ten are still boxed up in the garage, waiting for us to move to a permanent (rather than rented) accommodation.
Yes, books are expensive. And there are probably a lot of those books I will never read fully again. I suspect if I bought ebooks, the situation would in some senses be worse - I would probably even forget what books I owned.
I know when I buy a book, the money I spend is money I will never see again. I have never bought a book with the thought of reselling it (college text books are the exception). I have moved 3 times in as many years, and I will move at least 2 more times before I settle into a permanent place. Yet I would rather lug the boxes of books up and down the stairs rather than give them away. Living overseas might be a whole other consideration, but since I don't ever plan on moving to a different country, that doesn't apply to me.
Posts: 212 | Registered: Aug 2005
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Yeah, that. I've spoken of my chronic book-buying problem, and how I can't bear to part even with books I don't like. Somewhere under all that are the books I had to read for school and didn't like...piles of SF mags I haven't gotten around to reading for more than a decade...stuff that caught my eye once but which I forgot about once I put it in the pile.
Just the other day, I got the urge to reread a book...and it was an ordeal to (1) find it and (2) dig it out of there. It's only, like, three years old, but it was up against a set of shelves and behind three layers of books. (Several books make a pile, and several piles make a layer.) I had to move it all out, then move it all back.
Well, a cheaper mass-produced version which I hope will come about 2013. E-paper's the future. Thin like paper, reads lie paper.
Can you imagine buying a novel size book with about 300 novel-size e-papers pages in it? Plug in your USB and download a novel and start flipping the e-pages! Font too small - change it. Don't want to read curse words - use the internal program to blur words.
Done reading the novel? download another! And another!
Ah, can't wait.
Every one will have these - comic size bound e-pages, magazine size bound e-pages, newpaper size bound e-pages, textbook size e-pages. Heck, wallpaper size epages so you can read your book off the wall.
Then e-notebooks, with blue ruled lines, where children can take notes on both sides and practice their handwriting and save it for retrevial later.
At the school I go to they already are forcing students to go paperless. Everthing in given as pdf or powerpoints or word docs. Printing is discouraged. They no longer print out packets for us. There are people who spend hundreds of dollars at kinko's printing out the semester's ppt slides.
I think the battle to keep things 'paper' is slowly losing - once it becomes to costly too print using real ink and paper...watch out.
I was skeptical when I first looked into e-readers. I travel a lot and was interested in clearing some shelf space since I lost my office to my newborn son.
People that say that the e-reader is cold or feels detached usually have not actually tried one (in my experience). I love holding the book with one hand and not worrying about damaging the spine. I like being able to sip coffee and turn the "page" without acrobatics or balancing acts. The weight is even similar to an average paperback. The digital ink (or whatever they call it) is an outstanding reporduction of the real paper and ink aesthetic. I encourage nay sayers to at least give it a shot. The battery life is extremely long. I recharge every 10 days or so. There is no greater friend in the airport or on a plane than the kindle in my opinion.
I have curled up next to my fireplace in a big comfy chair and read a few books on my kindle. Do I think it will replace the paper book? No. I still prefer to have my favorite books on my shelf if for no other reason than as a talking point or to lend to a friend. Do I think most people can have a wonderful, warm experience reading off this handy little device? Absolutely. Even the nay sayers that scoff at the very idea may find they enjoy it if they gave it a shot.
Some people simply fear technology and progress and I get that but it has its place.
Speaking of e-notebooks, I was in Staples the other day and saw the coolest pen.
It was a combination pen/recorder/computer so that as you wrote, it digitized and saved everything with attached sound clips for the various parts of the lecture that went with what you wrote. Then you plugged the usb into a computer and dumped all your digitized notes and sound recordings to your hard drive. Supposedly it's all fully searchable, too.
Now, whether or not it works well is another matter entirely. But I thought it was a pretty darn cool idea.
My vote will always be for print books over ebooks OR audio books. There's nothing quite as satisfying as walking into a bookstore and SMELLING books.
Posts: 2026 | Registered: Mar 2005
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