Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:21 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.

This is something that it is easy for for westerners who don't interact with real-life Buddhist institutions to overlook. If it is free someone else has paid... I have a number of Dhamma books that have been printed and freely distributed because various generous individuals have paid for them. If I chose I could (but don't) go on retreats to my local Wat without paying a cent due to the generosity of the lay people.

All this stuff costs money, whether there is a fee charged or not.

It's not clear to me that non-profit publishers such as BPS, PTS, and Wisdom could continue to disseminate high-quality translations if they didn't have some sort of market model. It may be possible. Would those who complain about having to pay a few dollars for thousands of pages of high-quality translated text like to volunteer to set up such an institution?

My suggestion is that those who don't want to buy anything simply don't, quit complaining, and rejoice in what is freely available, which is quite a lot...

Mike


Hi Mike,

My point isn't about not wanting to buy...it's about broadening access to the greatest number of people. Buddhist organizations could slash their publication costs and enormously expand their reach through electronic publication. The future of publication is electronic for many reasons, but a huge one is the issues of physical resources which are running out and becoming prohibitively expensive (not to mention the high toxicity of the chems in the paper, glues, and inks used in traditional publishing that end up in the land fill and the water supply). Amazon's Kindle and Sony's version of same aren't just quaint toys...they are the future of publication and they can't produce them fast enough to keep up with demand. Kindle books cost 1/3 to 1/2 the price of paper and are significantly greener. The publishing industry is well aware that electronic books will be shared, but they don't care because they're still making the same amount of money or more.

I recently terminated a publishing contract with Random (because they wouldn't allow me to release the book in electronic format on file sharing networks for free) and I'll be releasing the book in Kindle format sometime next year with a simultaneous networking strategy. A friend of mine who had published 4 previous books with the big publishing houses released his 5th print book (this one green self-published) in electronic format on the file sharing networks for free, and as a result the print book has outsold previous sales for all 4 of the previous print books combined with their expensive ad campaigns that only benefited the publishing houses. Like me, his next book will be all electronic, kindle-ized and also free on the networks. Paper is a walking dead format...it's just a matter of time.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:32 am

Hi Pink,
pink_trike wrote:My point isn't about not wanting to buy...it's about broadening access to the greatest number of people. Buddhist organizations could slash their publication costs and enormously expand their reach through electronic publication. The future of publication is electronic for many reasons, ...

I agree. The communication from our friend from BPS indicates that they basically agree with this. However if I were running BPS or PTS I would want to make sure I had a sustainable operation, so I wouldn't rush to post scans of everything on the internet without having a sustainable long-term strategy.

Their current/past model is presumably to make enough from sales to be able to continue editing and publishing future books. It would certainly be possible to run a model where an organisation allocates enough money to a project to get to high-quality electronic copy, perhaps print a few thousand copies for free distribution, plus keep something back for maintenance (as they will undoubtedly have to change formats in the future and in any case they need to host the PDFs, etc, etc.).

But of course, that needs some up-front money...
pink_trike wrote:I recently terminated a publishing contract with Random (because they wouldn't allow me to release the book in electronic format on file sharing networks for free) ...

That's great. You are putting your resources where your mouth is... :anjali:

Mike
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.

There is a difference, however, between relative wealth and absolute wealth. To demonstrate this point, you can ask any average person a simple question: Would you rather be a middle-class person today or the richest person in the world 2,000 years ago?

Most people would choose the former, because although their position is one of lower relative wealth (wealth with respect to the standard of wealth at the time), it is much higher in absolute value, because of technology. Whereas ancient kings would spend their riches extravagantly to have many easily spoiled goods delivered promptly and used by chefs to prepare cuisine, today, we have modern refrigerators, canning, grocery stores, TV dinners, and restaurants, many things that would've been considered luxiries in the past, like ketchup. Whereas kings would have dancers, jesters, magicians, and so on, today, we have television and the internet. So, a single middle-class person today has at their fingertips all the resources of a pre-historical king, if not more..

This being the case, today, with computers and Pali resources, it doesn't require a king's riches to translate and publish the Tipitaka. In fact, when I've pointed out the difficulty of acquiring a full Tipitaka, I've been told by people to simply learn Pali, as Pali versions are available online for free. And yet: If it's so simple for someone like ME to learn Pali and translate it for myself, is there not a single person out there, at BPS or anywhere else, who is capable of the same task? ...At least when it comes to the most important texts.

But as it is so far, there's no serious attempt by these institutions to provide an easily accessible, free translation, for the sake of protecting the institutions themselves. Although I am glad to see the Visuddhimagga be made available for free soon. I only hope it's definitely going to be the entire Visuddhimagga and not with certain important portions missing.

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The interesting things that the "proliferation" of the various texts were paid for by either rich laity or by the land holdings of the monasteries or by royal patronage. Someone paid for it.

This is something that it is easy for for westerners who don't interact with real-life Buddhist institutions to overlook.

That's a bit condescending, don't you think? To counter that, I could say that people who don't have experience with NPOs automatically assume that they are efficient and benevolent.

mikenz66 wrote:All this stuff costs money, whether there is a fee charged or not.

Again, as I said, of course a traditional publishing company costs money. You have to pay translators, editors, and you have to pay for the ink and paper, obviously. But I'm not advocating that people provide paperback copies of the Tipitaka for free. I am talking about voluntary online collaboration, which clearly has a minimal cost. You look, for instance, at the size of Wikipedia. Only a few people fluent in Pali over a few years couldn't fully translate the Tipitaka? Come on. And the PTS, they've existed for so long, has it really been impossible to create a reliable public domain Tipitaka, over all these years? Of the translations they've made that are now public domain, they can't publish them online, because they have to keep tinkering with them to somehow make them better?

mikenz66 wrote:It's not clear to me that non-profit publishers such as BPS, PTS, and Wisdom could continue to disseminate high-quality translations if they didn't have some sort of market model. It may be possible. Would those who complain about having to pay a few dollars for thousands of pages of high-quality translated text like to volunteer to set up such an institution?

Let's look to the future: Would it be desirable or undesirable for there to be a free, easily accessible, and reliable Tipitaka? From the perspective of humanity, of course, since the interests of humanity and the interests of protecting the financial stability of a non-profit organization aren't necessarily the same.

It seems plausible to me that within the next 10 years, such an edition will be made by someone, regardless. When it happens, will organizations like BPS continue to hold out, touting their copyrighted version of the Tipitaka as "better" and slandering the hard work of others? I've seen people make such remarks about Metta.lk's Tipitaka before. So, why not help release a better one? How is the financial security of a certain organization more beneficial or valuable than the greater proliferation of Buddhist texts? I mean, the goal is the proliferation of Buddhist texts...

Once you've got one really good translation of the Tipitaka digitized, upload it to the internet -- you're done -- no more work required, no need for any institution of any kind, right? It's not something that requires regular maintenance... Once the work is completed, you put it out there, and the world can see it. Unless you copyright it. Because then that limits the amount of people that actually will see it.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:43 am

Individual wrote: If it's so simple for someone like ME to learn Pali and translate it for myself, is there not a single person out there, at BPS or anywhere else, who is capable of the same task? ...At least when it comes to the most important texts.


Of course it is not easy. Are you willing to support, be a patron, of a scholar who would be willing to do this?

there's no serious attempt by these institutions to provide an easily accessible, free translation, for the sake of protecting the institutions themselves.


Are you willing to support these institutions so that the can do this?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:02 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote: If it's so simple for someone like ME to learn Pali and translate it for myself, is there not a single person out there, at BPS or anywhere else, who is capable of the same task? ...At least when it comes to the most important texts.


Of course it is not easy. Are you willing to support, be a patron, of a scholar who would be willing to do this?

there's no serious attempt by these institutions to provide an easily accessible, free translation, for the sake of protecting the institutions themselves.


Are you willing to support these institutions so that the can do this?

...if I had either the time, skill, or the resources. How is that relevant?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:09 am

Individual wrote:...if I had either the time, skill, or the resources. How is that relevant?


There is a cost to all of this that has to be paid by someone.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 03, 2009 5:52 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:...if I had either the time, skill, or the resources. How is that relevant?


There is a cost to all of this that has to be paid by someone.

I've considered in the past helping out Metta.lk. And of course, editing a Tipitaka wiki doesn't take any serious amount of resources.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:54 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:...if I had either the time, skill, or the resources. How is that relevant?


There is a cost to all of this that has to be paid by someone.

Switching to print-on-demand publishing technology (from typesetting-based publishing) lowers the cost of print publishing drastically with the added benefit of generating an electronic document that can be easily offered for free online. Kindelizing the output of the print-on-demand document would drastically lower the price of the book making it available to a much larger market. These two steps would generate increased capital that could be used for further translation and electronic publishing initiatives. Individual is correct. The world has changed, to the advantage of small organizations with limited funds. Everything that Individual suggests is accurate and achievable.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:34 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:
That seems reasonable, but once a translation of a basic text of Buddhism, like the Visuddhimagga, has existed for several years, I don't understand the justification for not releasing it to the public. It would be strange if this "middleground" involved keeping translations of the most integral, vital texts of Buddhism copyrighted, while releasing small portions and modern commentaries.


You are willing to pony up big bucks to support BPS so that it can make its entire catalogue free, online and so it can continue to publish via hard copy and online copy of future works?

You are willing to pony up big bucks so the Pali Text Society can of offer it works for free online and via hard copies?

Are you willing to pony up big buck so the Vipassana Research Institute can continue make its CD-ROM version of the Pali Canon and all its commentaries (including the Visuddhimagga) to be free?

Someone has to pay for all of this.


Just wanted to again put this thought forward. The Dhamma needs to be for all, not just those in rich western countries with stable homes and communities, and access in some way to the internet.

karuna
Chris
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:05 pm

pink_trike wrote: Individual is correct. The world has changed, to the advantage of small organizations with limited funds. Everything that Individual suggests is accurate and achievable.


But there still is a cost to be borne by somebody or somebodies.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:14 pm

Greetings Chris,

Chris wrote:Just wanted to again put this thought forward. The Dhamma needs to be for all, not just those in rich western countries with stable homes and communities, and access in some way to the internet.


Theoretically, as the price of technology comes down, getting these people internet access may be cheaper than getting them Dhamma books.

Interesting times.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:26 pm

Individual wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:...if I had either the time, skill, or the resources. How is that relevant?


There is a cost to all of this that has to be paid by someone.

I've considered in the past helping out Metta.lk. And of course, editing a Tipitaka wiki doesn't take any serious amount of resources.


Yeah, well, with wiki there can be a serious quality issue, not to mention someone has to put in time and money to keep it running and to see that the overt nutcases do not run roughshod, as Wikipediea's anatta/anatman entry has shown (and it is still a problem but not as bad as it used to be).

Metta.lk's translations are most often at best rough first drafts and illustrate why it is important that highly trained individuals should be involved with translation. Supporting Ven Bodhi might be a better option.

The bottom line is that it is going to cost something to bring out this material in whatever format, and we should be willing to support that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:29 pm

To have the internet you must first have electricity. Then comes the ability to pay for the electricity. Then comes the cost of buying a computer weighed up against the cost of an electric water pump, lighting, cooking facilities or such.

"Some 1.6 billion people, about one quarter of the world?s population, have no access to electricity today. Eighty percent of these people live in rural areas of the developing world, mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where rapid urban migration and population growth will occur over the next several decades."
Source: IEA, "The Developing World and the Electricity Challenge," Jan. 2005, http://www.iea.org/Textbase/work/2005/poverty/blurb.pdf

metta
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:34 pm

Greetings Chris,

That reminds me of the sutta where the Buddha won't teach until the hungry man has been fed.

Curse those corrupt third-world governments.

:jedi:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 03, 2009 10:53 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Chris,

That reminds me of the sutta where the Buddha won't teach until the hungry man has been fed.

Curse those corrupt third-world governments.

:jedi:

Metta,
Retro. :)


Curse the first world governments for their complicity in that corruption.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Oct 03, 2009 11:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Chris,

That reminds me of the sutta where the Buddha won't teach until the hungry man has been fed.

Curse those corrupt third-world governments.

:jedi:

Metta,
Retro. :)


Curse the first world governments for their complicity in that corruption.

Complicity is too mild of a word. Creation of that corruption is a bit closer to the truth, imo.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Oct 03, 2009 11:24 pm

Chris wrote:To have the internet you must first have electricity. Then comes the ability to pay for the electricity. Then comes the cost of buying a computer weighed up against the cost of an electric water pump, lighting, cooking facilities or such.

"Some 1.6 billion people, about one quarter of the world?s population, have no access to electricity today.

metta
Chris

Hi Chris,

There are also over a billion illiterate adults in the world, but that doesn't stop us from publishing books that they can't read. Reading and books are statistically more commonly found in western countries with stable homes and communities.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Sun Oct 04, 2009 12:34 am

Chris wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Individual wrote:
That seems reasonable, but once a translation of a basic text of Buddhism, like the Visuddhimagga, has existed for several years, I don't understand the justification for not releasing it to the public. It would be strange if this "middleground" involved keeping translations of the most integral, vital texts of Buddhism copyrighted, while releasing small portions and modern commentaries.


You are willing to pony up big bucks to support BPS so that it can make its entire catalogue free, online and so it can continue to publish via hard copy and online copy of future works?

You are willing to pony up big bucks so the Pali Text Society can of offer it works for free online and via hard copies?

Are you willing to pony up big buck so the Vipassana Research Institute can continue make its CD-ROM version of the Pali Canon and all its commentaries (including the Visuddhimagga) to be free?

Someone has to pay for all of this.


Just wanted to again put this thought forward. The Dhamma needs to be for all, not just those in rich western countries with stable homes and communities, and access in some way to the internet.

karuna
Chris

If a person cannot afford internet access, how are they able to afford a paperback set of the Tipitaka? Granted, they could have it donated, but then this comes back to the point: There's greater proliferation of free texts than copyrighted ones. With free texts, they could be copied limitlessly. With copyrighted ones, you always need at least one paid-for copy. So, even the poor benefit when the Dhamma is given freely.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Nyanatusita » Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:42 am

It is perhaps of interest to know that only in recent history, the last hundred years (after printing of books became common in Asia, etc), the Tipitaka has widely become available in its original language as well as in translation. The Pali Tipitaka was written down by monks in Sri Lanka in the 2 century BCE, before that it was only orally transmitted by monks (some laypeople would also have learnt some suttas by heart but this would be a minority). After the writing down of the Tipitaka monks copied the manuscripts, which is very time-consuming work. Laypeople generally had no access to the Tipitaka because most would not know Pali and there were no complete translations of the Tipitaka available, although there probably were (interlinear) translations of some individual suttas such as the Dhammacakkappavattana, etc. Especially Jataka story translations were popular. Laypeople could get copies of texts but they would have to pay a scribe to copy it, which would have been costly and time-consuming. Manuscript were precious and treasured sacred possessions, handled with great care and respect.
The Mahavamsa(the chronicle which describes how the deeds of kings affected Buddhism in Sri Lanka) mentions that some kings has the Tipitaka copied by scribes and would have festivals in honour of the manuscripts. Some gave copied manuscripts to the Sangha and some kings rewarded monks for copying manuscripts by giving land to them. For the great majority of laypeople the way to learn the Dhamma would be to come to the temple and listen to sermons given by monks. If they really wanted to learn more then they would normally have to become monks or nuns and stay in a monastery. So, the Tipitaka and other Pali texts were only accessible to an elite minority.
In contrast, nowadays, many people in developed countries are used to have immediate access to any information they want at any time and any place through the internet and other media. If they can't get what they want immediately then this leads to frustration and anger. It is good to reflect on how privileged and fortunate we are nowadays to have access to so many free and inexpensive resources. Many people in the past would envy us. Some might have wondered how we could handle such large amounts of information without becoming confused.
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Re: Why isn't the Visuddhimagga free?

Postby Individual » Mon Oct 05, 2009 6:43 am

Nyanatusita wrote:It is perhaps of interest to know that only in recent history, the last hundred years (after printing of books became common in Asia, etc), the Tipitaka has widely become available in its original language as well as in translation. The Pali Tipitaka was written down by monks in Sri Lanka in the 2 century BCE, before that it was only orally transmitted by monks (some laypeople would also have learnt some suttas by heart but this would be a minority). After the writing down of the Tipitaka monks copied the manuscripts, which is very time-consuming work. Laypeople generally had no access to the Tipitaka because most would not know Pali and there were no complete translations of the Tipitaka available, although there probably were (interlinear) translations of some individual suttas such as the Dhammacakkappavattana, etc. Especially Jataka story translations were popular. Laypeople could get copies of texts but they would have to pay a scribe to copy it, which would have been costly and time-consuming. Manuscript were precious and treasured sacred possessions, handled with great care and respect.
The Mahavamsa(the chronicle which describes how the deeds of kings affected Buddhism in Sri Lanka) mentions that some kings has the Tipitaka copied by scribes and would have festivals in honour of the manuscripts. Some gave copied manuscripts to the Sangha and some kings rewarded monks for copying manuscripts by giving land to them. For the great majority of laypeople the way to learn the Dhamma would be to come to the temple and listen to sermons given by monks. If they really wanted to learn more then they would normally have to become monks or nuns and stay in a monastery. So, the Tipitaka and other Pali texts were only accessible to an elite minority.
In contrast, nowadays, many people in developed countries are used to have immediate access to any information they want at any time and any place through the internet and other media. If they can't get what they want immediately then this leads to frustration and anger. It is good to reflect on how privileged and fortunate we are nowadays to have access to so many free and inexpensive resources. Many people in the past would envy us. Some might have wondered how we could handle such large amounts of information without becoming confused.
Bh Nt

That's a good point.
The best things in life aren't things.

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