Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News and Deals: Crime fiction overtakes romance

In the UK, romance checkouts at the library are being overtaken by crime fiction titles.  Does that mean that the interest in romance books is declining? Melville House wonders if, instead, readers are going digital.

But while this story is being billed as romance vs. crime fiction, it seems like there could be a digital subtext. Much has been made of the migration of the mass market, especially romance genre readers, to the digital platform. Cheap, fast, and perhaps the allure of being anonymous are the key contributors to this fundamental shift in preference among romance readers.

There has been a lot of subtext in these reports that romance readers are flocking to digital because of the anonymity which isn’t supported by any actual data. Just a few anectdotes and supposition.  In looking at the past data collected, avid readers moved to the digital platform first.  Avid readers. Not just chicks embarrassed by the man titty covers.


The division between Harlequin and Mills & Boon is very confusing for me but the big news across the pond is that M&B is experimenting in ebook shorts.

M&B is releasing ten original e-book only shorts for Valentine’s Day, to be priced at £1.99. The seven novellas, all by established M&B authors, and published on 14th February itself, will be His Darling Valentine by Carole Mortimer, The Billionaire’s Blind Date by Jessica Hart, The Bridesmaid’s Proposal by Rebecca Winters, The Ordinary King by Nina Harrington, Chosen as the Sheikh’s Wife by Liz Fielding,Their Baby Bond by Amy Andrews, The Governess and the Earl by Ann Lethbridge, Italian BossHousekeeper Mistress by Kate Hewitt, The Reluctant Queen by Caitlin Crews, and The Count’s Secret Child by Jennie Lucas. The e-books will be available across all digital formats and devices.

The price seem really high considering that Piatkus is putting out digital releases of full length books for £2.99.


Goodreader has floated a rumor that Amazon is thinking about opening retail stores. Nearly every other news source has picked it up.  Let me be the latest bandwagoner.

Seattle is where Amazon’s main headquarters is based and is known as a fairly tech savvy market. It is a perfect launch location to get some hands on experience in the retail sphere. A source has told us that they are not looking to launch a huge store with thousands of square feet. Instead they are going the boutique route and stocking the shelves with only high margin and high-end items. Their intention is to mainly hustle their entire line of Kindle e-Readers and the Kindle Fire. They also will be stocking a ton of accessories such as cases, screen protectors, and USB adapters.

The biggest issue, as Goodreader points out, is the one of sales tax.  Amazon has fought paying local sales tax, lobbying for a federal sales tax law.


John Bergmayer argues that Barnes & Noble’s refusal to carry Amazon published books is good for all of us because it helps to support the nook platform. Amazon cannot be allowed to operate in a vacuum, the only player in publishing.

I’m glad Barnes & Noble is at least trying to keep ebook distribution competitive. Now that most digital music is sold DRM-free and from more than one source, people can purchase music from Amazon, Apple, and artists and labels directly, shopping around for a good price and without worrying about lock-in. We only have this competitive marketplace because labels saw that an Apple-dominated future wasn’t in their best interest. Publishers and many writers see that an Amazon-dominated future isn’t in their interest, either, but they’ve haven’t done much to actually counter it. (Of course, an Amazon-dominated future might be better for writers than the status quo—but I’m comparing it to an imaginary competitive future.)

You know what else would help ameliorate Amazon’s lock on digital publishing? Removal of DRM.


Sally Clement is from Ireland but she is reaching readers worldwide. For a brief moment, her book “Bound to Love” was number one on Amazon’s romance bestseller list.  Clement put her book for free:

Over two days, 31 December and 1 January, 19,000 readers opted to download “Bound to Love” free of charge. “Most of these were in the USA,” she told the Leader this week


Following the free download, the Kildare author was more than pleasantly surprised to find that around 2,200 copies of Bound to Love were sold.

The publicity of the free downloads has led to some of her other books seeing a ten-fold increase in sales.

Just thought this was an interesting datapoint that 19,000 downloads led to 2,200 sales.


I’ve been listening to more audio books and so have been spending more time at Audible. This week they are having a $4.95 deal on the first of various series. Link. Sample titles include Secrets of a Summer’s Night by Lisa Kleypas, Soulless by Gail Carriger, First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones (narrated by Lorelie King), Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep, The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter, Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Virgin River by Robyn Carr, Kiss at Midnight by Lara Adrian, Storm Born by Richelle Mead, Ruthless by Anne Stuart, Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara, Naked in Death by J.D. Robb.  There are 50 romance titles included in the sale.

Avon is having special pricing for Rachel Gibson books.

  • True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • True Confessions by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Sex, Lies and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • I’m in No Mood for Love by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Tangled Up in You by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Lola Carlyle Reveals All by Rachel Gibson * $5.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson * $4.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • The Trouble with Valentine’s Day by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Truly Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Daisy’s Back in Town by Rachel Gibson * $3.99 * A | BN | K | S

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. cecilia
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 10:22:23

    There has been a lot of subtext in these reports that romance readers are flocking to digital because of the anonymity which isn’t supported by any actual data. Just a few anectdotes and supposition. In looking at the past data collected, avid readers moved to the digital platform first. Avid readers. Not just chicks embarrassed by the man titty covers.

    In the very beginnings though the digital (erotic) romance publishers were a big part though, no? For myself, they were the reason I started reading ebooks in the first place. In that case, anonymity and terrible covers certainly would’ve been a factor if the books were easily available in print. Once there were more big publisher ebooks out, I think anonymity and/or embarrassment over the covers were less important, but I think for some (including me) it must still be a factor, even if it’s not the most important. (As unfashionable as it is to admit that I don’t want to be judged for my tastes in reading)

  2. Isobel Carr
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 10:30:42

    I know it’s just more anecdotal evidence, but the ability to escape man titty covers, and to read anonymously on public transportation (the Bay Area is notoriously not romance friendly), gets brought up as a factor in the decision to go digital by almost every woman I know. It may not be THE reason women move to digital, but it’s in the top five (along with instant gratification, weight of purse, travel, and now lack of physical book stores).

  3. LG
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 10:49:21

    Since I was already buying most of my new books online anyway, due to the limited selection at my local entertainment store (we don’t have anything I’m willing to call a bookstore), embarrassment wasn’t a factor in my decision to get an e-reader. What was a factor was price. I had just started trying out m/m romance due to some interesting reviews I read here on DA, but the price of the paperback versions meant I couldn’t afford very many and it hurt more if I made a bad buy.

    I’ve never actually had a salesperson make a negative comment about romance I’ve purchased, no matter how terrible the cover was. Manga, on the other hand, is another matter. A big stack of those once got me a “Wow, aren’t you a nerd?” comment from the person ringing it all up.

  4. Laura Vivanco
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:10:16

    The move to crime fiction in the PLR statistics is one that was first noticed in the figures for 2004/5 (reported in Feb 2006):

    Adult library borrowers today are turning away from romance in favour of crime and thrillers, according to figures released today by Public Lending Right (PLR).

    The list of the Top 10 Most Borrowed Titles in the UK for 2004/5 reveals that the gritty forensic novels of US writers such as Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs and James Patterson have gained in popularity with borrowers, compared with previous years when romantic fiction dominated the Top 20 (see tables attached).

    Whilst novels by Josephine Cox, Joanna Trollope and Danielle Steel are still favourites with librarygoers, Dame Catherine Cookson, who reigned supreme as the UK’s most borrowed author for 17 years, has dropped out of the list of Top 10 Most Borrowed Authors for the first time since records began in 1984.

    Today’s PLR figures also reveal the continuing popularity of children’s books in libraries. Children’s writer and current Children’s Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson was today named as the most borrowed UK author for the third year running. Three other children’s writers – Mick Inkpen, Janet & Allan Ahlberg and Roald Dahl – also appear in the list of the Top 10 Most Borrowed Authors in the UK.

    Paul Oliver, the author of the Melville House article, clearly hasn’t got much of a clue about the UK fiction market because he writes that:

    That old-fashioned romance cover with Fabio‘s bulging likeness on the cover might have been a bit to much chintz for some less-confident fans to read in public. With the rise of eBooks, these readers fled to the Kindle or Nook in order to read their lusty tales in anonymity.

    1) Fabio appeared on US romance covers. Most US single-title romances do not make it across to the UK in paper editions, and when they do, the covers tend to be different. For example, this is the US cover and this is the UK cover of Loretta Chase’s Mr Impossible.

    2) The names of the “romantic fiction” authors should make it obvious that these are not “romance” authors as generally defined in the US: Catherine Cookson wrote sagas, Josephine Cox writes “family epics,” and on Joanna Trollope’s Facebook page it’s stated that her “books are generally upmarket family dramas and romances, that somewhat transcend these genres via striking realism in terms of human psychology and relationships.”

    3) The Nook is not sold in the UK.

    4) The Kindle was launched several years later in the UK than in the US.

    Given all of these factors, I’m not particularly convinced by Oliver’s theory that “there could be a digital subtext” to the decline in the PLR figures for romantic fiction.

  5. Annette
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:17:26

    More anecdotal evidence:

    Although my husband and two kids have either iPads or Kindle Fires, I’m the lone stalwart still reading only paper books in my household. But one of the reasons I’m tempted to get an e reader is the discretion of reading romances in public. I admit it. After reading this blog for a while, I felt bolstered by you all, said WTF, and brought my copy of Scandal by Carolyn Jewel to my daughter’s volleyball tournament to read in between matches. My husband and I were reading and relaxing in our car before the next match when another team member’s dad came up, saw what I was reading, and told my husband, “You know romance novels are just porn for women, right?” I’d hold Ms. Jewel’s mastery of the craft up there with anyone this guy could throw at me. And since then, I’ve kept my romance reading to inside my own home. So yeah, an e reader could take care of that problem nicely.

  6. Jackie Barbosa
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:18:58

    @LG: A big stack of those once got me a “Wow, aren’t you a nerd?” comment from the person ringing it all up.

    I sincerely hope your response was, “Wow, aren’t you rude?”

  7. cleo
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:22:37

    @Isobel Carr: That’s exactly why I got my Nook – I read on my commute and I wanted the convenience and anonymity of an e-reader, plus access to e-only pubs like Carina Press. Not that anyone, in all of my years of reading on the el in Chicago, ever gave me any crap about my garish romance or SF/F covers (probably because that would require making eye contact). But still, I like that I can read whatever I want without feeling a little self-conscious about the cover.

    I’d be interested in seeing an actual study of why people choose to get their first e-reader. The narrative that romance readers want to hide the garish covers is compelling and I agree with you that it’s probably not THE reason, but it is one of the reasons. For me, hiding the covers wasn’t themost important reason I finally bought my Nook, (because I could have made one of those brown paper hide-the-cover-things for a lot less money) but it was a nice bonus. And it makes a better story than saying I bought my Nook because it fits better in my bag, is more convenient, and let’s me buy as many books as I want without running out of shelf space at home.

  8. Jackie Barbosa
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:31:42

    I’m not convinced that it’s the “garishness” of the covers, in and of itself, that romance readers want to hide as the fact that they are reading ROMANCES. In other words, if the typical romance cover featured flowers and hearts or impressionistic landscapes or kissing rubber duckies and everyone KNEW that was the “signal” for a romance novel, I think people would be just as inclined to want to hide them. It’s the fact that we fear being judged negatively because we like “those books”–which the dominant culture repeatedly tells us are trashy and unworthy–that makes us want to hide them, and I don’t think that would be significantly different if the “symbolism” for romance covers changed.

    Moreover, there are plenty of romance novels now that have quite lovely, non-garish covers (how about Sarah MacLean’s A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME?), but I think that cover still screams “romance” and many readers would feel just as self-conscious showing that cover as a clinch or man-titty one.

    And that’s a shame, but it’s not in my view about the covers so much as it is about the general disrespect for the genre and the people who read it.

  9. JB Hunt
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:48:59

    Haven’t romance readers been early adopters of all sorts of technological innovations? I’d like to see some recognition of that in discussions of romance e-book sales.

  10. cecilia
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 11:50:13

    @Jackie Barbosa: I absolutely agree with you. And this is kind of off-topic, but I’ve been thinking a little about the topic of romance’s reputation because of discussions elsewhere, and the tone of the discussion has been to defend the genre staunchly, dismissing the people who don’t like it as mindlessly snobby snobs.

    I’ll agree that there are some truly beautifully written romances, but I’ve also read many (many) that seemed like a hodgepodge of conventions and cliches, not to mention errors in English, so I can’t muster up the passionate defense of all romance that others will mount. But I also know that other genres (say, crime fiction) have just as many books that may be the literary equivalent of Kraft Dinner. (Yes, I’m a snobby snob. I’ll admit that I think some books really are crap, even if I like them.)

    I think what makes me feel most self-conscious about reading romance publicly is not what people will assume about my intellect, but what people will assume about my personal life – that it’s a reflection of inadequacy or immaturity or loneliness, or whatever. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to read a western or a horror novel in public, even if it was quite trashy looking, because nobody is going to think it’s a reflection of a deep personal failure. But with a romance, people do make those equations, no matter how tame the cover is.

  11. DS
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 12:27:12

    @Jackie Barbosa: It’s the cover content for me. I bought my e-reader because Jane had been talking about them and they started to sound interesting about the time of the Kindle launch, but I thoroughly dislike on an esthetic basis mantitty covers, clinch covers, and historically inaccurate covers. Once my Kindle arrived not showing the cover struck me as a big plus.

    On another note, someone mentioned two deals on Theresa Weir books earlier this week. I went to look at them and ended up downloading both because I thought the covers were striking and interesting. (Kindle versions of One Fine Day and Forever). I wouldn’t mind having frameable versions of both cover photographs.

  12. Tina
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 12:30:48

    I got a Kindle2 right when they came out. So that would have been, what, 2009? Anyway, I got it because I kept seeing how much cheaper AZ was offering kindle versions of books. And I kept seeing e-only versions of books I wanted to read. It like this tantalizing fruit I couldn’t quite reach. So for me it was a matter of accessing material I couldn’t otherwise access or getting stuff free & cheap.

    Also, I am a technophiles. I love all things bits & bytes. My husband brings me a dozen roses & diamond ring he gets a lovely kiss and a thank you with a lot of “oohing”. The roses eventually die and the ring gathers dust in my jewelry box. He brings me a 47 inch, LED 1080p 60 Hz HDTV flat screen and he gets his world rocked all night long. I’m just sayin…’

    I personally have never cared about what strangers thought of my covers or reading material so that never even once figured into my decision.

  13. CK
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 12:47:58

    “Reader Shaming” does play a big part, I think, but I moved to ebooks 3yrs before I got a reader simply because I found epublishers putting out stories that I wanted to read. Once you get used to a new format, you begin to wonder how you lived without it before. LOL.

  14. Isobel Carr
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 12:52:46

    @Jackie Barbosa: I’m sure you’re right, but the cheesy covers are one of the reasons a lot of my non-romance reading friends often dismiss the genre (and were one of the reasons I avoided it for years). They just don’t promise the kind of read that fans of historical fiction are looking for, and I think this is a shame as most hist fic fans I know are easy converts if I can just get them to TRY a hist rom. And it’s much easier to get them to try one if I can just gift them an ebook. The cover isn’t as much of a stumbling block.

  15. DM
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 12:57:42

    I wish someone would take a closer look at this current marketing stategy of giving away tons of books to get a few sales. Amazon is inundated with freebies since they opened the floodgates back in December. The free book promo only works if an author has multiple books or a series. But everyone is giving away their books–even those who only have one book published–in hopes it will boost sales because they’re seeing all the success stories. In my opinion, giving away nearly 20K books to sell 2K is a sad statement on the market. I’m afraid the tidal wave of freebies will have some long term effect on sales for all of us. And now readers *expect* to read for free.

  16. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 13:04:26

    @LG: I have had that problem, too, both at book stores, and more surprisingly, comic book stores in the area. Like the people working there have any business making fun of what I read!

    Editing to clarify – I was purchasing graphic novels at both.

  17. Helen
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 13:04:47

    I’m not sure I agree. As a reader I fully understand that the “free” promotions are just that, promotions to attempt to get a fan base for an author’s books. I know that personally if an author offers a free book and I love it then I immediately look them up on my nook and purchase all the other books that author has. In fact I LOVE finding an author I’ve never read before who has a large back list (whose books I like) because it means that for a little while at least, I won’t have to wade through drek.

  18. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 13:15:18

    @Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe: Must admit, I would’ve called the manager and left the books on the counter for them to see what such rudeness cost them.

  19. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 13:19:33

    @Moriah Jovan: I have done that at B&N. The guy at the comic book store was one of the owners, so there wasn’t much point there. I haven’t been back to either, since. I frequently had horrible shopping experiences at B&N, which is why I shop mostly at Amazon now.

  20. LG
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 13:42:26

    @Jackie Barbosa and @Moriah Jovan: Those responses occurred to me later on. At the time, his comment left me speechless. It wasn’t a little bookstore, so I wasn’t expecting format-snobbery. My friends and I had driven for an hour to get there, and I didn’t want to leave empty-handed, but that experience left me with no desire to ever go there again.

    I do wish I had at least been able to come up with your response, Jackie. The more I thought about it afterwards, the more it upset me. I have no problems thinking of what to say when I’m with someone else who’s in the same position, and yet I couldn’t think of a thing to say when it was my own reading choices being commented upon.

  21. Ridley
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 14:53:19

    “Wow, aren’t you a nerd?”

    “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

  22. Variel
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 15:41:42

    @LG I’m astounded that someone who works in a brick and mortar store had the audacity to say something like that. Bet they have no idea that in Japan it is common for people of every age and walk of life to buy manga.

    @Annette if Romance is considered porn for women I wonder what he’d make of erotic fiction. Probably never even picked up a romance in his life. If romance is porn at least it has a better storyline!

  23. P. Kirby
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 16:02:51

    Well, I finally got a Kindle for my birthday last month and I am now almost finished reading my first ebook (urban fantasy) ever. My conclusion? While I’m not giving up print books (largely because most of my reading material comes from the library), I’m finding that reading on my Kindle is easier than in print. It’s light, stays open to the page I’m reading with no muscles involved. A good thing since I’ve got some carpal tunnel in my right wrist. The text is easy on my eyes, and I like that I can make it bigger. The main drawback is that I have to remember to periodically “charge my book” as it were.

    Anyway, while I can see the added benefit of hiding cheesy covers, I imagine a lot of readers like ereaders for the same reasons I do.

  24. Melissa
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 16:23:28

    I have mixed feelings about the anonymity of my reading material with an e-reader. The occasional interactions with a stranger who had loved the same book I was reading are now gone. On the other hand, the more numerous interactions with boors who felt entitled to comment on my reading habits are also gone. I think this is a net positive. I have no patience left to deal with people who make judgements about me based on what I’m reading. It cuts into reading time!

    Romance novels didn’t elicit the worst responses. I have a large, old volume of the complete works of Shakespeare. I got it at a yard sale. The leather cover is cracked, and the gold leaf lettering has mostly rubbed off. Man, reading that on the bus never went well. People usually wanted to know what I was reading. Somehow Shakespeare must mean you’re some kind of snob. Or people saw me with this thick, old looking book and assumed it was a Bible. I got a few remarks that made me sympathize with anyone trying to read inspirational material–people who felt compelled to school me about how religion was the source of most wars, or how anything can be justified by some passage in the Bible. I’m so glad I can just read in peace now.

  25. Cindy
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 20:37:40

    I’d been reading ebooks since Ellora’s Cave first opened and finally broke down and bought an e-reader when the laptop screen began hurting my eyes to read on there. I very much adore my e-ink screen. Then so many things were popping up that were only available in the ebook format, space, lack of shelves…all of this contributed. I never even thought about hiding the covers, but I generally use a book cover any way to protect my books.

  26. Brian
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 22:11:31

    Some Harper Collins $0.99 deals that might interest some…

    Dark Time – Dakota Banks
    Sacrifice – Dakota Banks
    Very Valentine: A Novel – Adriana Trigiani
    No One Heard Her Scream – Jordan Dane
    No One Left To Tell – Jordan Dane
    No One Lives Forever – Jordan Dane
    And Then He Kissed Her – Laura Lee Guhrke
    For Your Arms Only – Caroline Linden
    Cloaked with Bonus Materials – Alex Flinn
    Still in My Heart (Ryland Brothers) – Kathryn Smith

    Also for those with Special Offers Kindle’s there’s a new SO, get one of 100 Romance eBook titles for $1…

    the list of included books can be found here…

    Also, the US Sony store is offering the PRS-T1 for $99 thru 2/18

  27. SAO
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 23:04:00

    Yet another example that publishers are clueless about their readers. I’d bet that romance readers read far more books than average and are running out of bookshelf space — a main driver for me. Also, as bookstores shrink, the bestsellers stay and the genre fiction declines. Avid readers have probably read a decent portion of the books of interest in the Walmart book aisle.

  28. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity has eyes like limpid pools
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 09:44:33

    […] Book and publishing news from Dear Author. […]

  29. Jackie Barbosa
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 10:22:31

    @Isobel Carr: I’m not dismissing the possibility that in some cases, it’s the covers that make readers uncomfortable, but it also seems pretty clear that those supposedly “cheesy” covers sell a lot of books. I hear/see a lot of praise for some of the covers that are probably the biggest offenders (e.g., the covers of Jaci Burton’s athlete series, which feature drooly-hot shirtless men) in terms of public embarrassment factor, so I’m not convinced that the overt sexiness of cover art directly turns off readers, though I can certainly see your point about readers who have an existing prejudice against romance.

    I’m curious–do you think the covers of YOUR books are cheesy and embarrassing? If you do, what would you prefer they looked like?

  30. Isobel Carr
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 16:59:53

    @Jackie Barbosa: I think there’s a difference between covers that appeal/attract avid romance readers and covers that appeal/attract non-romance readers. I was in the later group for most of my life, and I’m still in that group when it comes to covers. That said, I trust my publisher to know what they’re doing with my covers, and my sales bear out that they do.

  31. Ros
    Feb 11, 2012 @ 17:53:44

    3000 books with no need for any extra shelf space = no brainer for me. Everything else about my kindle is a bonus.

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