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June 2011 E-Book Sales $80.2M

 Posted by at 12:24 PM  Tagged with: ,
Sep 122011
 

June e-book sales are in, at $80.2M, which is a little below May’s $87.7M figure. Overall, sales so far in 2011 have been somewhat up and down, but each month has been consistently well above even the best month of 2010 (December’s $49.5M).

Monthly e-book sales. June 2011: $80.2M

To recap, the last 13 months of e-book sales data:

  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M

Quarterly e-book sales. Q2 2011: $240.7M

For the quarter, e-book sales came in at nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, at $240.7M. After last quarter’s $229.2M, e-books are not quite on pace to hit a billion dollars for the year. (Publisher’s Weekly says first-half 2011 sales total $473.8M, which is a little higher than adding all their monthly totals; they seem to add in some late-reporting sales or something.)

Sadly, PW also seems to have stopped providing as much detail on breaking down print book sales (hardcovers, trade paperbacks, etc.), although they did reveal that print book sales “plunged” in June, with trade paperback sales down a whopping 64%, adult hardcovers down 25%, and mass-market paperbacks down 22%. Certainly the closing of Borders stores has not been kind to print book sales. While they didn’t provide breakdowns, with those steep declines it’s hard to see any print categories beating out e-book sales in June.

UPDATE: Based on my comparisons to last year’s figures, we can safely estimate that even the largest print category (adult hardcover at roughly $55.6M) was well under e-book sales for the month. I’ve also dug up some 6-month figures for the first half of 2011; print books (all 5 trade categories) combined to total $1,672.2M for the year (compared to $473.8M for e-books), which means that e-books accounted for a record 26.9% of all print/e-book sales for the month, and averaged 22.1% for the first half of 2011.

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Sep 032011
 

So, you’ve written a book — congratulations! What now?

Unless you just want your book to sit on your hard drive or print it out to share with a few friends, you have two main choices: (1) write query letters to traditional publishers in the hopes they decide to publish you, or (2) self-publish, releasing your book on your own. This article focuses on the self-publishing option, and specifically self-publishing your work as an e-book through Smashwords (check here for tips on print self-publishing).

Once you upload your e-book (as a Microsoft Word document) to Smashwords, they will convert it for you into multiple formats, and then will not only sell it from their own site, but will distribute it to a growing list of e-book retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Diesel. The best part about this is that Smashwords doesn’t charge any up-front fees for conversion or distribution (they even give you a free ISBN, which is required to distribute through Apple), they instead keep 15% of the royalties you earn through sales. This allows you to get started with no out-of-pocket expense, and you can remove your books from distribution (or elect only certain channels) at any time. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth a 15% cut for Smashwords to convert your book for you, distribute it to multiple retailers, and consolidate your sales and payment reports in one place.

How to Get Started

The first thing you’ll need is a novel (or short story) in electronic format, probably in Microsoft Word. For purposes of creating an e-book, you generally want to strip out all the fancy formatting you might use in a printed book: get rid of fancy fonts (just put everything in Times New Roman), strange indents or block quotes, and weird symbols. You can keep bold and italics, and smart quotes and em dashes should translate properly, although they sometimes cause problems. It’s generally better to use first-line paragraph indents in Word (instead of hitting the tab key — and never use spaces to indent paragraphs). Do not leave blank lines between paragraphs, since some e-book readers add them and you’ll end up with triple spacing! The basic rule is: the simpler, the better. Various e-book readers will display your text in different ways, and users can adjust font sizes at will, so just forget about the idea of controlling every aspect of how the text will look and where pages within a chapter break (like you would in a printed book), and keep the formatting clean and simple. Do not use multiple line breaks, those look terrible on the screen — use a blank line and a row of asterisks to indicate chapter or section breaks instead.

The second thing you’ll need is a front cover, which should be in 2:3 ratio. It should be at least 800 pixels tall, although you’ll be using the same image (along with a spine and back cover) if you make a paperback, and that requires at least 300 dpi, so it’s best to make it high-resolution to begin with (1800×2700 pixels for a 6×9 paperback). Any interior art (like an “about the author” photo) should be black and white and at least 150 dpi. The less interior art, the simpler it will be.

Smashwords Formatting

Smashwords has an excellent free Style Guide that will help you prepare your Microsoft Word document for upload. It basically explains how to do what I said above: simplify and clean up your Word document, remove line breaks and extraneous formatting that translates poorly to e-books, etc. You can then upload your Word file and Smashwords will convert that file to all the e-book formats you need, including MOBI and ePub.

Like I said above, it definitely helps to keep your formatting simple, and follow the instructions in the Style Guide. E-book formatting can be an arduous process when you’re first learning, and it’s easier to follow the Style Guide instead of fighting it.

For a little more detail on a weird e-book formatting problem I had (which prevented my books from passing the dreaded ePubCheck), check out this post: Formatting for Smashwords and ePubCheck.

Conclusion

The simplest way to get your e-book distributed as widely as possible and looking pretty good is to: (1) read and follow the Smashwords Style Guide, (2) create a Word document with simple, clean formatting, (3) upload that Word document to Smashwords and let them convert it for you, and (4) enter your book’s information, description, price, etc. at Smashwords, and (5) opt in to all the distribution channels you want. You should end up with a nice-looking e-book, and it will be available on B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, and other e-book sellers. (At this time, Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Amazon or Google, although they have been working on Amazon distribution for a while. You can distribute directly to Amazon through their KDP platform.)

I do recommend the Smashwords service, and use it to distribute my own novels. Check them out on Smashwords here!

E-Books Outselling Hardcovers in 2011

 Posted by at 2:52 PM  Tagged with: ,
Jul 222011
 

The May 2011 e-book sales stats bring with them the announcement that, so far in 2011, e-books are the #2 format, behind only adult trade paperbacks, and ahead of both adult hardcovers and adult mass-market paperbacks. E-book sales are up 160.1% since last year, while adult trade paperbacks (-17.9%), adult hardcovers (-23.4%), and adult mass market paperbacks (-30.1%) all suffered double-digit declines from 2010. Year to date 2011 totals (with YTD 2010 numbers in parenthesis) are:

  1. Adult trade paperback: $473.1 M (576.4 M)
  2. E-Books: $389.7 M ($149.8 M)
  3. Adult hardcover: $386.2 M ($504.1 M)
  4. Adult mass-market paperback: $185.1 M ($264.8 M)

While the Association of American Publishers didn’t break down monthly sales figures this month, subtracting out previous months’ totals gives me an estimate of $87.7 M for May 2011 e-book sales (just behind February’s $90.3 M record). Adult trade paperbacks were $96.5 M, adult hardcover $82.9 M, and adult mass-market $33.1 M. (Note that their YTD totals and prior months’ sales don’t usually add up exactly; I assume they update and adjust prior month totals without telling us. But this estimate should be close.)

May 2011 e-book sales: $87.7 M

Those figures are strong, putting e-books very near a pace to hit $1 billion in sales this year (which I predicted after seeing the February figures). For review, the past 13 months of e-book sales:

  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M

Very impressive that e-books have outsold both mass-market paperbacks and hardcovers over a 5-month period, industry-wide (Amazon announced several months ago that e-books had overtaken all print book sales through Amazon.com). In addition, these figures do not include independent author e-book sales (which are becoming more and more significant, with some indies selling over 1 million copies), and, by focusing on revenue, they understate the number of e-books sold when compared to print books that normally cost more per unit.

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Jul 162011
 

The Kindle 3G now starts at just $139!

I’ve posted before about Amazon’s new “Special Offers” Kindles … where Amazon knocks $25 off the price of a Kindle that includes “Special Offers” that include advertisements in screen savers and at the bottom of the home screen (but NOT while reading books). I’ve also talked about how some of the “special offers” are actually quite good deals, like $20 Amazon gift cards for $10.

Now Amazon has really made the deal even more attractive by doubling the discount: they’re now knocking a full $50 off the price of the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G version, dropping the price down to just $139. That’s the same price as the regular Kindle Wi-Fi, which doesn’t include free-for-life 3G wireless connectivity.

I expect these will sell very well, especially considering that the $114 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” was already their best-selling model. Adding just $25 for the free-for-life 3G capability seems like a pretty good deal to me.

You can buy the various Kindle 3 models direct from Amazon (and get free shipping) here:

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April 2011 E-Book Sales Stats

 Posted by at 8:40 PM  Tagged with: ,
Jun 252011
 

April 2011 e-book sales came in at $72.8M, slightly up from March’s $69.0M, but well below February’s record $90.3M (past months’ data can be found here). This is up 165.7% from last April’s total of $27.4M.

April 2011 e-book sales: $72.8M

Prior months’ totals:

  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M

In comparison to print, e-books were the #3 trade book format this month (they topped all formats back in February), behind adult hardcover and trade paperback, but still well over double adult mass-market paperback. For print:

  • Adult hardcover: $111.4M
  • Adult trade paperback: $95.9M
  • Adult mass-market paperback: $28.5M
  • Young adult hardcover: $41.2M
  • Young adult trade paperback: $36.8M

In total, e-books accounted for 18.8% of all trade book + e-book sales, down from nearly 30% in February, but still a healthy percentage that is more than double last year’s average of 8.2%.

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10,000 Sales!

 Posted by at 9:31 PM  Tagged with:
Jun 062011
 

Please excuse my excitement as I share a personal milestone with you: I just sold the 10,000th copy of my novels.

I would like to sincerely thank each and every person who made one of those 10,000 purchases, along with everyone who has helped me edit the novels, or supported me along the way. And a special thank you to anyone who left an Amazon review, or told your friends about the books — without you, I never would have gotten to 10,000 sales.

For anyone who’d like to become the first of my next 10,000 readers, you can find excerpts, reviews, and information about my three novels here:

  • Right Ascension: a space opera, science fiction epic that combines action & adventure with the exploration of ethical dilemmas.
  • Declination: the sequel to Right Ascension.
  • The Twiller: a humorous, satirical romp across the Universe that just might remind you of some comical situations on our own planet.

Thank you again for the support, and happy reading!

May 252011
 

Just a quick note: following on the success of Amazon’s Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (ads) for $114 — which quickly became Amazon’s best-selling Kindle model — Amazon today rolled out the 3G version: the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G with “Special Offers” for $164. Similar to the less-expensive model, this is also a $25 price cut from the normal 3G model, which is $189. It appears to be in stock, with free shipping.

For more info on the “Special Offers,” check out my post on the Wi-Fi-only version here.

UPDATE: The Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” is now $50 off, and costs just $139.

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B&N Nook Classic 2 Debuts for $139

 Posted by at 4:18 PM  Tagged with: , ,
May 242011
 

Nook Classic 2

As expected, B&N today announced their next-generation e-reader, available in Wi-Fi only for $139, and available June 10. I’m calling it the “Nook Classic 2,” to differentiate it from the LCD-based Nook Color. (Update: B&N calls it the “Nook Simple Touch.”)

It’s a strikingly simple design based around the standard-sized 6″ e-Ink Pearl touchscreen.

It’s also strikingly similar to the Kobo Touch introduced yesterday for $130.

The feature list:

  • 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen
  • Infra-red based touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 7.5 ounces
  • 2 GB internal memory, plus SD card reader

Yeah, pretty much the same as the Kobo Touch. I can’t help but think that Kobo did a pretty great job of stealing B&N’s thunder (and for a few bucks less, too).

On the plus side, the Nook Classic was badly in need of a refresh, and this release at least allows B&N to tread water, although it doesn’t seem at all groundbreaking to me. B&N also seems to have admitted that the small LCD touchscreen at the bottom of the original Nook Classic was a costly gimmick: it decreased performance and battery life, increased size and weight, and never seemed to be implemented all that well. Interestingly, it also abandoned the 3G model.

B&N is touting 2 month battery life, based on 1/2 hour of reading per day. I think this is about the same as the Kindle 3’s claimed one-month battery life, which probably assumes 1 hour of reading per day. Next maybe someone will claim 4 months based on 15 minutes a day? Come on. Maybe just give us the battery life in hours from now on?

B&N also claims that the Nook Classic 2 is the “simplest” e-reader out there, lambasting Kindle’s “37 extra keys” (the Kindles have full keyboards). However, I consider an actual, tactile keyboard to be a positive (especially for anyone taking notes); touchscreen keyboards are OK but far inferior to real keyboards, in my opinion. And I do prefer page-turn buttons to swiping at (and getting finger oils on) the screen.

B&N also claims impressive page-turn speeds, although the video I saw seemed about on par with the Kindle 3. Honestly, page turn speeds (which were slow enough to be an issue on the Nook Classic 1) are fast enough for my needs on most modern e-readers already. It’s about the time it takes to blink, and already quicker than turning a physical page. B&N also found a way to reduce the amount of “flash” where e-Ink screens black out the screen for a moment when changing pages; it now happens only on every 6th page change. E-Ink flash never bothered me before, and this might actually be more distracting, where it only happens sometimes.

The look of the Nook Color is decidedly simple, with the single button at the bottom (again, like the new Kobo Touch), but in a more squarish configuration with no extra space on the bottom. It’s supposed to be a rubberized, soft-touch material, which also sounds similar to the Kobo to me.

So, how does it stack up? Well, physically, it’s a solid effort, but a bit underwhelming, especially coming on the heels of the very-similar Kobo Touch. After all, it shares the screen, touchscreen technology, Wi-Fi wireless capability, SD card slot, ePub capability, and more with the Kobo Touch. It does boast longer battery life and double the internal memory, but is a tiny bit heavier and more expensive. Basically a wash. (Both trounce the Sony touchscreen e-readers on price.)

Compared to the Kindle, the same comments from my Kobo Touch article apply: the Nook Classic 2 is a little smaller and lighter than the Kindle 3, but lacks in features, including audio (used for audiobooks or listening to music), an Internet browser, text-to-speech, and games & apps. I’d only recommend it over the Kindle 3 if you’re a big fan of touch (I’m not). Of note, if you want 3G connectivity, the $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G (with free-for-life 3G) is now the only game in town, with B&N ceding that market completely to Amazon.

As for the e-book store, I think B&N and Kobo both have very good e-book stores (ahead of Sony, Apple, and Google), but Amazon is still the undisputed leader, with the most titles available (ignore B&N’s marketing talk of having the “largest” e-book store: they count public domain titles that Amazon doesn’t, even though they are easily available for the Kindle as well). Amazon has nearly a million e-book titles in the Kindle store so far. However, if you’re already tied into one of those three ecosystems, the e-readers are probably close enough that it wouldn’t be worth it for you to switch.

Of note, B&N also announced that they own 25% of the e-book market, and that their Nook Color is the #1 Android tablet, #2 overall behind the iPad.

My overall impression is that the Nook Classic is at least back in the game (the Nook Classic 1 had fallen behind) and worth considering again. But there’s nothing groundbreaking here; B&N was aiming to hit a single, not a home run. At best, this offering (and the Kobo Touch) match Amazon’s Kindle 3, they don’t leap ahead of it. And considering that the Kindle 3 has been out for about 9 months now, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Kindle 4 before Xmas that raises the bar still further.

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Kobo Touch E-Reader for $130; Wireless $99.99

 Posted by at 6:18 PM  Tagged with:
May 232011
 

The new Kobo Touch e-reader is $129.99

Kobo today announced their third generation e-reader device: the Kobo Touch. The Kobo Touch will retail for $129.99, and sports some impressive features:

  • 6″ Pearl e-Ink screen
  • Infra-red touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Faster processor
  • 7.03-ounce weight
  • 1 GB internal memory; SD card slot
  • 10-day battery life

This is an impressive upgrade over the original Kobo E-Reader and 2nd-generation Kobo Wireless. In addition to adding the Pearl e-Ink screen (with 50% better contrast than earlier versions), it also adds the IR touchscreen used in the newer Sony e-readers; this is important, as older touchscreen technology added a layer above the e-Ink screen and decreased readability. They’ve kept the weight low (it’s smaller and lighter than the already-light Kindle 3, which is 8.5 ounces), but used a faster processor, which allows for nice PDF panning and zooming and should negate some of the negatives I found in my Kobo Wireless review.

Speaking of the Kobo Wireless, Kobo today lowered the list price of that 2nd-generation device to $99.99, allowing them to provide the first e-Ink-based e-reader to officially retail for under $100 (actually, the Kobo Wireless has been going for that price or lower for a while, but it was listed at $129). You can also find e-reader deals at that magic sub-$100 price point, such as today’s one-day-only refurbished Kindle 2 with 3G for $90 at Woot, or some recent $99 deals on the Nook Classic.

But back to the Kobo Touch: Kobo managed to come in with a touch-based, Wi-Fi enabled, 6″ Pearl e-Ink screen for $130, slightly undercutting the $139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi. Impressive. So how does it stack up?

First of all, B&N better have a great announcement up its sleeve (which is rumored to come tomorrow) regarding the Nook Classic, which is now thoroughly outclassed by both the Kindle 3 and Kobo Touch.

Sony’s e-readers probably take the biggest hit here. Until today, they had held the distinction of being the only mainstream e-readers with a touchscreen, but they were hindered by high prices. The Kobo now pretty much eats their lunch. Comparing the Kobo Touch ($130) to the Sony Touch PRS-650 ($229) with the same 6″ e-Ink screen and IR touchscreen, the Sony gets slaughtered: not only is it about $100 more expensive, but it doesn’t even include Wi-Fi. The Kobo is smaller and lighter, too. The only thing the Sonys have going for them are that they are available in 5″ and 7″ sizes, but the 5″ PRS-350 still costs $20-50 more than the Kobo Touch and the 7″ PRS-950 does provide Wi-Fi but costs a whopping $299.

Even Amazon will have to take notice of the Kobo Touch. While the Kindle 3 probably keeps the title as the best all-around e-reader, the Kobo Touch does have some nice things going for it. First, it’s $9 cheaper. Second, it has a touchscreen, which I don’t personally prefer in an e-reader, but some people like. Third, it is smaller and lighter than the Kindle, and I do like the rubberized, quilted back they’ve kept from previous Kobo models. Kobo even managed to steal a bit of Amazon’s thunder from the $114 ad-supported Kindle 3 with Special Offers by offering the Kobo Wireless for $100.

I haven’t used the new Kobo Touch yet (it’s scheduled to ship in “early June”), but it appears the new speed will negate one of the Kobo Touch’s biggest weaknesses: its sluggish operation and delays in opening books. The touchscreen seems to be implemented well: you can now highlight, look up words in the dictionary, and even drag a slider to quickly move through books, which is an impressive feature I’ve requested for the Kindle before. It works with library e-books, which won’t be available on the Kindle until later this year. And it has the new e-Ink Pearl screen; now that I’ve seen it on my Kindle 3, I wouldn’t recommend a non-Pearl screen.

On the other hand, the Kindle still has the most features (audio, text-to-speech, Internet functionality, games & apps), better battery life, a better dictionary (the dictionary on the Kobo Wireless only works on Kobo-purchased e-books), and the best e-book store.

So what’s the verdict? Without actually having one to review, I’d say that the Kobo Touch is a very credible contender, and worthy of serious consideration if you’re shopping for an e-reader. If you prefer a touchscreen, it looks like the Kobo Touch is currently your best bet. If you’re neutral on touch (or dislike it — I prefer page turn buttons), the Kindle 3 does have some features you may miss on the Kobo, and I think it maintains a slight edge. If you’re looking for a sub-$100 e-reader, the Kobo Wireless is worth a look, but quite honestly there are better deals out there (like finding the Kobo Wireless for well under that price, the $114 Kindle with Special Offers, or the older model Kindle 2 or Nook Classic).

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March E-Book Sales Dip from All-Time Highs

 Posted by at 5:38 PM  Tagged with: ,
May 202011
 

Fresh off impressive all-time high sales of $90.3M in February (which made them the highest-grossing format, ahead of hardcovers and trade paperbacks), e-book sales settled down to a more reasonably robust $69.0M for March of 2011. That’s very close to January’s $69.9M. As compared to March 2010, the March 2011 numbers are an increase of 142%.

This puts overall Q1 2011 e-book sales at a record $229.2M, an increase of 157% from the same period a year earlier.

As explained by the Association of American Publishers, the large January sales and huge February sales were a result of post-Xmas e-book buying:

According to publishers, these figures are consistent with seasonal buying patterns; in particular, a return to print editions after the post-holiday period of buying, or “loading,” of e-Books into e-reader devices.

This is no surprise; a very similar pattern emerged last year (although with a more even Jan-Feb-Mar distribution, without the huge February spike):

  • Jan 2010: $31.9 M
  • Feb 2010: $28.9 M
  • Mar 2010: $28.5 M
  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M

Print books made a comeback, totaling $96.6M for adult trade hardcover sales, $115.9M for trade paperbacks, and $55.2M for mass-market paperbacks. Print books have sales surges before Xmas, and then a slow period after Xmas when publishers don’t release any big blockbuster titles. Thus, January and February are simultaneously the strongest months for e-books and the weakest months for print books.

One other note on March’s decrease from February’s sales: just like sales dipped to their lowest point of the year last April, the first month that 5 of the “Big 6” publishers raised e-book prices under “agency model” pricing, March 1 marked the date when Random House joined ranks and embraced the agency model as well. Is it a coincidence that we saw another large dip in sales that month? Will March 2011 remain the lowest point for e-book sales in 2011? Probably a good bet. (We got a good hint that April numbers should be strong when Amazon announced that its e-book sales overtook all print sales combined in April.)

Looking forward, I’d expect sales to rebound slowly over the next few months, and they probably won’t top February’s breakout numbers until the second half of the year. By the end of 2011, we should see even more $99 e-readers, perhaps a rumored Amazon tablet, a rumored B&N Nook Classic 2, and e-book sales in the $100M per month and 20-25% market share ranges.

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