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Old 06-21-2018, 07:23 PM   #1
Rellwood
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A Question about readers changing books

Hi,

First I need to state that I have purchased over 1000 books from Amazon alone. I have also purchased from Smashwords, Bookstrand, Ellora's Cave (when it was still around), and other online sources. Also, I get e-books from the library. I read about 300 books a year and have been doing so for the past 5 years. I started reading at age 6 and up until 2013 when I got my first Kindle I had only been reading paperbacks purchased online, or in used book stores, or at the library. So I am not someone who is just dealing with a quibble here and there. What I am going to describe is an ongoing and often daily "problem" that I want to get your opinions on my solution. Also, keep in mind that all my books are for my own personal use and are not given away or lent.


Ok, now that I got that out of the way, in the hopes of saving time writing this out, I will try to be succinct, and answer questions later.

Since authors started self publishing I have noticed that e-book formatting has taken a dive. Too many times I download to my Kindle only to discover line heights up to 200%, spaces between paragraphs with no indentation, or double spacing with extra line height and indents. The combinations of unreadable (to me) formatting is almost limitless. This is one point.

The second point is the non-plot specific uses of words, terms and phrases that can actually cause me to stop reading a book. If they are noticed before I get into the story, I will unconsciously be on a countdown to a dnf, it can take only one more instance to dnf a book if I haven't gotten into it.

Since I read so much, and have a ton of books (like HR reading through a pile of resumes) it takes very little to decide not to finish a book. I am only talking about the use or overuse of specific terms, words, and phrases (not a set specific list, but specific to that story), forget about the plot or story.

A simple example would be an Indie Sci-fi series of about 15 books of which I started the first, loved it, then impulsively bought the next 8 books. They were cheap, and I figured they were a good deal. However by the second book I kind of noticed the author using and reusing specific phrases to describe characters, or interactions. Since I was really into the plot, I overlooked them. However they continued into the 3rd book, at which point I had to consult Goodreads to see if I was the only one to notice this (I was).
I had hoped that by the 4th book someone would have clued her in, but the same 5 or 6 points kept coming up to the extent that it seemed like the book was auto written using plugins. If that wasn't bad enough, the parts of the story that kind of saved me from those overused terms and phrases started to lag. I ended up DNF'ing half way through the fourth book. I have since consigned the rest of the books to the archives and have moved on.

These phrases and words were unique enough and so ubiquitous that I couldn't overlook them. They were literal speed bumps to my reading. After reading "trotted" for the literal 60th time in a book when used to describe any and all actions indicating a person moving using their feet I was done.

There were maybe 5 or 6 other very easy to point out and totally overused examples that were not necessary to the plot, but really got old.

That was an example of an extreme problem with use and overuse.

Finally, there is the single word, either not appropriate but used a few times more that I was willing to overlook - a New Adult Erotic Romance with Billionaire and BDSM themes shouldn't have the word "skivvies" instead of panties. However it was used 5 times in the most ridiculous ways. "He spent $5000 on clothes for me, and that didn't even count the skivvies and shoes". " If I spend my money its on art supplies and skivvies" - My apologies to the author if this gets back to her, but really, you could have used panties and it would have been so much better.

Another example would actually be something I hadn't noticed until a 3 re-reading of a series. I don't know what brought it to my attention, but once it was on my radar, I was screwed. I have wicked ADHD and a bit of other spectrum related issues so I have no control of what happens once I get to the point where I notice something. I hate it when I am into a book and then I am pissed because I know it's going to mess with me. This is not even counting plot or editing.

Black Boxer-briefs. I realized that this was used to describe the underwear of the hero in an New Adult Dark Romance series by one of my favorite authors. Since this hero tended to strip a lot, I had to read that he was wearing black boxer-briefs every time. I wasn't having it.

Because I loved this series, I was compelled to do something that I always threatened (in my mind) to do. I went into the book using Calibre book editor and did a search and replace for the term black boxer-briefs and changed it to underwear. After realizing that I could literally fix books that I couldn't read (really, its my own hangups and not the fault of the author in many cases) I went through all those books I had to dnf, or books where something bothered me enough that I would remember it being there even after putting it down for months.

I went back into that indie sci-fi series and found the word "trotted" used in each book up to 100 plus times. I changed that to "went". "She went to the other room". "They went down the hallway". "He went over to me". Yeah, there were times it didn't quite fit, but it was so much easier to read than basically doing the drinking game everytime I read the word trotted.

Finally, in order to tackle the problems with formatting, I would just reconvert the book into the acceptable format using the preferences of 125% line height, remove spaces between paragraphs and indents. Remove colors and keep the original justification, and make sure there is a table of contents.

I have to side load most of my books anyway so I can read their titles on the device series first (Amazon needs to fix that with their titles so I can actually read the series listing). The most aggravating thing is when I know a favorite author always uses formatting that I can't stand. The worst is big line height, spacing between paragraphs and no indents. I try to overlook it, but often can't. So it sucks to download a book, expecting to read it right away, but learning I have to upload it to my computer, fix the formatting, the resend it to my Kindle.

So my question is what do authors think about readers who purchased their books going into them to change small non-plot specific parts and reformatting to their desired output all in the name of actually enjoying the read and not dnf'ing what could be a great book?

I know they are your babies, but if I am able to read them, isn't that more important?

Last edited by Rellwood; 06-21-2018 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 06-21-2018, 09:03 PM   #2
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For obvious* reasons I would hope that you never had to make any changes to any of my books. But, while I can't speak for all authors, I don't really care what you do with a file on your computer (just as long as you don't change a few words and then try to pass it all off as your own work). You can edit the covers and put moustaches on the faces (could be difficult, there are no faces on any of my covers, but you can put some on if want); you can change all the occurrences of any word to something else that suits you; you can run Google translate and turn it into French. I really don't mind. Seriously, I do not mind at all.

The next is a bit controversial, and you may find not all authors react well, but if it was my books you had trouble with then I would like you to write to me and tell me what was wrong. I reserve the right to ignore you, but I would like to know what was upsetting any of my readers.


As to formatting troubles. There are two types. There are (for want of a better phrase) real problems and then there are preferences. I've hit real problems in several trad-pub ebooks (stylesheets not linked or just plain wrong and that sort of thing). And as you've found, many Indies get their styles wrong or simply fail to use styles properly through lack of understanding. In other cases some people prefer extra spacing between paragraphs, some prefer particular fonts, and so on: there is no pleasing everyone, so I think it's great that some people are happy to edit the epubs to match their own tastes.


Curiously enough, I've hit the poor word choice in in trad-pubs too, particularly YA, but of course you see it more in poorly edited Indy publications. As regards excessive repetition, there are tools out there that authors can use to help them identify and avoid or reduce the problem - they just need to realise they're doing it. (Which is where my second paragraph comes from.)


Off topic: I am curious about the "Billionaire" romance stuff - I've see quite a lot of these lately, but never read one. Isn't it overly cynical to suggest people are looking for romance specifically with billionaires? Or are these tales told in jest? Or maybe it's no different to the old fairytale of marrying a prince.


* Are they obvious? Hmm... maybe not. My first reason is that I would prefer to be thought of as a professional (I am asking people to pay for my novels) - if my work needs fixing after purchase then I am not doing my job. My second reason is that I don't want to annoy any of my readers, they're too hard to find to risk putting them off.

Last edited by gmw; 06-21-2018 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:06 PM   #3
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For what it's worth, I routinely reformat ebooks whose format I don't like. I started doing this out of necessity when I was getting PD ebooks from Project Gutenberg and Gutenberg Australia, and have carried it over elsewhere where necessary. Mostly it's preferences: I like no spaces between paras, single line height, and indents for paragraphs.

And I'm right with you there when it comes to aggravations in otherwise acceptable texts. At one stage I read a whole bunch of ebooks by E Phillips Oppenheim (PD here in Australia) and he had the habit of using thousands (well, it felt like thousands) of substitutes for the word "said", often when dialogue tags were entirely unncessary. I'd get a few chapters in and then the endless variations would finally hit me. And tend to throw me out of the book.

One of his favourite "said" substitutes was "confided", and my favourite example of misuse was in a courtroom scene with a woman witness under cross-examination. I couldn't see how she could "confide" in anyone in those circumstances. In fact no dialogue tag was needed at all.

Once I started to re-edit an Oppenheim novel to replace these words with "said" or delete superfluous dialogue tags altogether, out of curiosity to see how it would read, and gave up very quickly, before about 5 pages in. There were just too many of them, half a dozen every page.
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Old 06-24-2018, 02:17 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rellwood View Post
Hi,

First I need to state that I have purchased over 1000 books from Amazon alone. I have also purchased from Smashwords, Bookstrand, Ellora's Cave (when it was still around), and other online sources. Also, I get e-books from the library. I read about 300 books a year and have been doing so for the past 5 years. I started reading at age 6 and up until 2013 when I got my first Kindle I had only been reading paperbacks purchased online, or in used book stores, or at the library. So I am not someone who is just dealing with a quibble here and there. What I am going to describe is an ongoing and often daily "problem" that I want to get your opinions on my solution. Also, keep in mind that all my books are for my own personal use and are not given away or lent.


Ok, now that I got that out of the way, in the hopes of saving time writing this out, I will try to be succinct, and answer questions later.

Since authors started self publishing I have noticed that e-book formatting has taken a dive. Too many times I download to my Kindle only to discover line heights up to 200%, spaces between paragraphs with no indentation, or double spacing with extra line height and indents. The combinations of unreadable (to me) formatting is almost limitless. This is one point.

The second point is the non-plot specific uses of words, terms and phrases that can actually cause me to stop reading a book. If they are noticed before I get into the story, I will unconsciously be on a countdown to a dnf, it can take only one more instance to dnf a book if I haven't gotten into it.

Since I read so much, and have a ton of books (like HR reading through a pile of resumes) it takes very little to decide not to finish a book. I am only talking about the use or overuse of specific terms, words, and phrases (not a set specific list, but specific to that story), forget about the plot or story.

A simple example would be an Indie Sci-fi series of about 15 books of which I started the first, loved it, then impulsively bought the next 8 books. They were cheap, and I figured they were a good deal. However by the second book I kind of noticed the author using and reusing specific phrases to describe characters, or interactions. Since I was really into the plot, I overlooked them. However they continued into the 3rd book, at which point I had to consult Goodreads to see if I was the only one to notice this (I was).
I had hoped that by the 4th book someone would have clued her in, but the same 5 or 6 points kept coming up to the extent that it seemed like the book was auto written using plugins. If that wasn't bad enough, the parts of the story that kind of saved me from those overused terms and phrases started to lag. I ended up DNF'ing half way through the fourth book. I have since consigned the rest of the books to the archives and have moved on.

These phrases and words were unique enough and so ubiquitous that I couldn't overlook them. They were literal speed bumps to my reading. After reading "trotted" for the literal 60th time in a book when used to describe any and all actions indicating a person moving using their feet I was done.

There were maybe 5 or 6 other very easy to point out and totally overused examples that were not necessary to the plot, but really got old.

That was an example of an extreme problem with use and overuse.

Finally, there is the single word, either not appropriate but used a few times more that I was willing to overlook - a New Adult Erotic Romance with Billionaire and BDSM themes shouldn't have the word "skivvies" instead of panties. However it was used 5 times in the most ridiculous ways. "He spent $5000 on clothes for me, and that didn't even count the skivvies and shoes". " If I spend my money its on art supplies and skivvies" - My apologies to the author if this gets back to her, but really, you could have used panties and it would have been so much better.

Another example would actually be something I hadn't noticed until a 3 re-reading of a series. I don't know what brought it to my attention, but once it was on my radar, I was screwed. I have wicked ADHD and a bit of other spectrum related issues so I have no control of what happens once I get to the point where I notice something. I hate it when I am into a book and then I am pissed because I know it's going to mess with me. This is not even counting plot or editing.

Black Boxer-briefs. I realized that this was used to describe the underwear of the hero in an New Adult Dark Romance series by one of my favorite authors. Since this hero tended to strip a lot, I had to read that he was wearing black boxer-briefs every time. I wasn't having it.

Because I loved this series, I was compelled to do something that I always threatened (in my mind) to do. I went into the book using Calibre book editor and did a search and replace for the term black boxer-briefs and changed it to underwear. After realizing that I could literally fix books that I couldn't read (really, its my own hangups and not the fault of the author in many cases) I went through all those books I had to dnf, or books where something bothered me enough that I would remember it being there even after putting it down for months.

I went back into that indie sci-fi series and found the word "trotted" used in each book up to 100 plus times. I changed that to "went". "She went to the other room". "They went down the hallway". "He went over to me". Yeah, there were times it didn't quite fit, but it was so much easier to read than basically doing the drinking game everytime I read the word trotted.

Finally, in order to tackle the problems with formatting, I would just reconvert the book into the acceptable format using the preferences of 125% line height, remove spaces between paragraphs and indents. Remove colors and keep the original justification, and make sure there is a table of contents.

I have to side load most of my books anyway so I can read their titles on the device series first (Amazon needs to fix that with their titles so I can actually read the series listing). The most aggravating thing is when I know a favorite author always uses formatting that I can't stand. The worst is big line height, spacing between paragraphs and no indents. I try to overlook it, but often can't. So it sucks to download a book, expecting to read it right away, but learning I have to upload it to my computer, fix the formatting, the resend it to my Kindle.

So my question is what do authors think about readers who purchased their books going into them to change small non-plot specific parts and reformatting to their desired output all in the name of actually enjoying the read and not dnf'ing what could be a great book?

I know they are your babies, but if I am able to read them, isn't that more important?
Oh Dear. Another pedantic Puff Piece.
Ok. Skivvies are NOT panties, they refer to MEN's underwear. You use since when you mean "as". (Since has to do with time.) I could go on, (and on) but my pedantic focus is not as demanding as yours. I'm glad that you are not an author as I would find you most irritating.
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Old 06-24-2018, 08:00 AM   #5
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Oh Dear. Another pedantic Puff Piece.
Ok. Skivvies are NOT panties, they refer to MEN's underwear. You use since when you mean "as". (Since has to do with time.) I could go on, (and on) but my pedantic focus is not as demanding as yours. I'm glad that you are not an author as I would find you most irritating.
I dunno, I'd say your pedantic focus is doing okay

Even the OED acknowledges the use of "since" as a conjunction with senses not related to time: "Because that; seeing that; inasmuch as". As you indicate, it would be annoying to see overuse in a narrative, but there seems nothing technically wrong with the OP's use of "since".

"skivvies" is interesting - I remember, as a kid, wearing a skivvy on my torso: a lightweight pullover, almost like a long-sleeved polo-necked singlet. It's a word with several meanings, and I'd probably avoid it in a narrative for that reason. But the gender was not clear in the OP; it's possible the "me" in "clothes for me" is talking about a man or a woman. It's also not unheard of for women to wear men's underwear - and for a BDSM situation I'm not about to make assumptions.

As for "panties". Someone recently said to me that panties is what men call women's underpants, women call them knickers. But I think it's one of those words that is both regional and era sensitive.
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Old 06-24-2018, 11:34 AM   #6
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As for "panties". Someone recently said to me that panties is what men call women's underpants, women call them knickers. But I think it's one of those words that is both regional and era sensitive.
The word "panties" makes my skin crawl; it's so coy and cutesy, but unfortunately it's the common term here. Knickers are men's clothing; I enjoy seeing baseball players who still wear the traditional knickers instead of the more common and much less flattering long pants.
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Old 06-24-2018, 05:09 PM   #7
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The word "panties" makes my skin crawl; it's so coy and cutesy, but unfortunately it's the common term here. Knickers are men's clothing; I enjoy seeing baseball players who still wear the traditional knickers instead of the more common and much less flattering long pants.
I, too, loathe the term "panties". I prefer the generic term here (for men and women) of undies.

My (elderly) mother calls the "knickers" worn by baseballers "poop catchers". She was mightily dismayed when I joined a softball team that wore them. Here in Australia, I remember that baseballer's knickers type pants were called "pedal pushers" (or something like that). But that could be a regional variation.

But to the original post...I think a lot of authors "recycle" bits of their stuff to convey the idea of a series (I remember one detective novel series that I had to stop reading because...there was this harping on about what the detective ate somewhere near the beginning of each book. We geddit already).

As to the formatting, sadly, people have the same issue with creating ebooks as they do with web pages. They incorrectly assume that how it looks on their screen is how it looks for everyone. I generally don't bother fixing stuff though unless it's just too hard to read on my ipod touch.
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Old 06-24-2018, 07:20 PM   #8
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The word "panties" makes my skin crawl; it's so coy and cutesy, but unfortunately it's the common term here. Knickers are men's clothing; I enjoy seeing baseball players who still wear the traditional knickers instead of the more common and much less flattering long pants.
Baseball players need to wear stirrup socks too. I miss that look!
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Old 06-25-2018, 12:49 PM   #9
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Skivvie Waver was Navy slang for a Signalman (whose duties included hoisting those colored pennants)
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Old 06-25-2018, 09:19 PM   #10
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I find it hard to believe that a female author would ever refer to women's undergarments as Skivies. Are you sure it wasn't a guy writing that?

Yeah, that usage would have taken me out of the story too. But I've never thought of editing a book to make reading it more palatable.
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Old 06-26-2018, 06:56 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Rellwood View Post
Since authors started self publishing I have noticed that e-book formatting has taken a dive. Too many times I download to my Kindle only to discover line heights up to 200%, spaces between paragraphs with no indentation, or double spacing with extra line height and indents. The combinations of unreadable (to me) formatting is almost limitless.
I use Sigil to check the formatting on all books I buy. Some are, as you mentioned, terribly formatted (though that's rarer and rarer for me).

I have a friend that works in publishing professionally. For his own amusement he scans old film novelizations that would never have an ebook released otherwise. His work is as good as anything put out by tradpub, but for some reason he likes putting a bit of a break between paragraphs (not an entire line break, but enough to leave noticeable space between paragraphs). It drives me batty, but he knows what he's doing, so I can see that formatting that deviates from my preferences isn't necessarily an 'error' or poor formatting.

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The second point is the non-plot specific uses of words, terms and phrases that can actually cause me to stop reading a book. If they are noticed before I get into the story, I will unconsciously be on a countdown to a dnf, it can take only one more instance to dnf a book if I haven't gotten into it.

Since I read so much, and have a ton of books (like HR reading through a pile of resumes) it takes very little to decide not to finish a book. I am only talking about the use or overuse of specific terms, words, and phrases (not a set specific list, but specific to that story), forget about the plot or story.

A simple example would be an Indie Sci-fi series of about 15 books of which I started the first, loved it, then impulsively bought the next 8 books. They were cheap, and I figured they were a good deal. However by the second book I kind of noticed the author using and reusing specific phrases to describe characters, or interactions. Since I was really into the plot, I overlooked them. However they continued into the 3rd book, at which point I had to consult Goodreads to see if I was the only one to notice this (I was).
I had hoped that by the 4th book someone would have clued her in, but the same 5 or 6 points kept coming up to the extent that it seemed like the book was auto written using plugins. If that wasn't bad enough, the parts of the story that kind of saved me from those overused terms and phrases started to lag. I ended up DNF'ing half way through the fourth book. I have since consigned the rest of the books to the archives and have moved on.
I suspect that if you didn't read the books back to back, the author's tics wouldn't have been as noticeable.

As for the story lagging, well, that's why I don't care for series.

In the end, all the problems you mention seem to stem (in part) from a self published author not getting the help of a good editor. Someone who could have caught those repetitive or inappropriate phrasings and could have helped with formatting the book.
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:36 PM   #12
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I wouldn't even know how to change a book. I really don't pay that much attention to things like how much space is between paragraphs - it would have to be something really weird and abnormal for me to notice. The only real problem I've had with an ebook was one where the font size couldn't be changed - it was stuck on a way-too-large size. I contacted the Sony store (this was back when Sony was still selling ebooks) and they got it fixed.

As for the repeated information in series books - I can think of a couple of reasons for this - 1. If case someone who hasn't read the earlier books picks up a later book in the series, they will have some background. Or 2. if someone is reading the books as they are issued, and it's been a year between the publication of books 2 and 3, the reader might have forgotten some details from book 2 a year later and be glad for the reminders in book 3. If you binge read all the books in a series one right after the other you will notice the repetition.
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Old 06-30-2018, 06:59 PM   #13
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I've always thought life is too short to edit other people's ebooks. I understand why some people do it but for me either the formatting and typo errors are few enough to ignore or I can quit and read something else.

If the problem is the writing - repetitive use of phrases etc - the life is really too short, you can re-incarnate me half a dozen times and I'm still going to skip that one. Besides if the writing is bad it'll show up in other ways after I "fix" the repeated phrases.
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Old 06-30-2018, 07:45 PM   #14
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I edit the formatting of every ebook I purchase. There are lots of things about formatting that bother me (spaces between paragraphs, too big indents/margins/line-spacing, various problems with fonts and font sizes, and so on). I'm really OCD about those things. Very few books are formatted the way I like, and the formatting issues distract me terribly so that I'm unable to read the books without editing them first.

On the other hand I never bother with typos, repetitive phrases and the like. I can tolerate those in moderate amounts and if the amount is far from moderate I'll usually just ditch the book altogether. It would take far too much time to correct typos and phrasing.
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Old 07-01-2018, 12:39 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alohamora View Post
I find it hard to believe that a female author would ever refer to women's undergarments as Skivies. Are you sure it wasn't a guy writing that?

Yeah, that usage would have taken me out of the story too. But I've never thought of editing a book to make reading it more palatable.
I'm a woman, and I refer to my own underthings as skivvies. FWIW. I find "panties" too cutesy, and bloomers is clearly out of fashion. I don't care for "underpants," which is just...IDK, juvenile. So...skivvies.

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