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Textbook price-check tool met with doubt - as campus bookstores "run the risk of insolvency"
San Francisco Chronicle ^ | August 24, 2012 | Nanette Asimov

Posted on 08/25/2012 3:40:38 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

Campus bookstores hate the idea, and even some college students are skeptical of the new effort by a former California lawmaker to help them save money on textbooks for hundreds of classes on nearly every campus from Alabama to the Yukon Territory.

It's a free price-check that lets students compare textbook prices and rentals, and buy from the source they like best.

The new online tool comes from former state Sen. Dean Florez, president of the 20 Million Minds Foundation in Sacramento, which lobbies for low-cost textbooks and is behind legislation, SB1052, to create a low-cost digital textbook library in California.

The idea seems a winner, with textbook prices rising 8 percent on average in just the past year - faster than the cost of food, clothing or even housing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But Richard Hershman of the National Association of College Stores says that Florez's attempt to get students to buy textbooks from alternative sources is unfair to nonprofit campus bookstores that "will run the risk of insolvency."

Not all students are wild about the price-check tool either because the site does not yet include Amazon, and it doesn't always compare the same editions.

Florez says his foundation is working on both issues.

"We expect to continually improve the site as we move forward by adding additional vendors, plus a new feature that takes the real-time price at any third-party site and features it as best price at that particular time and place," Florez said.

(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bookstore; bookstores; campusbookstore; education; publishing; textbooks

1 posted on 08/25/2012 3:40:47 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
What in the hell are students still buying text books for?

My kids (in grade school) still lug around 45 lbs of stupid text books. Why don't they have a kindle and download whatever they want? Is that really going to be more expensive than buying a 6 lb book that’ll be out of date in a couple of years? Or, in college, because of the small press run, paying $120 for the professor's book?

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to reference the facts in those books without having to lug around a library?

2 posted on 08/25/2012 3:51:20 AM PDT by South Hawthorne (In Memory of my dear Friend Henry Lee II)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Comparison shopping for grossly overpriced textbooks runs the risk of putting nonprofit campus bookstores into insolvency?

I don’t know where to start with the multiple levels of idiotic assumption here, but I’ll just say that maybe overhead and cost of goods is the problem, if they just can’t cut it without a monopoly.

The left disdains a monopoly, don’t they? Unless their own ox is being gored, in which case the propaganda machine revs up to a high rpm whine.


3 posted on 08/25/2012 3:55:39 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: South Hawthorne
"Wouldn't it be nice to be able to reference the facts in those books without having to lug around a library?"

The last thing "Big Publishing" wants is a challenge to their little (HUGE) monopoly on text books. I mean if authors start going "digital" on text books we don't need printers and shippers and paper mills and lumberjacks etc. AND when you wish to publish and updated version of a text book its just a little bit of editing and an upload. So that destroys the industry because all of the sudden most of the jobs in "Big Publishing" are the 21st Century equivalent of "Buggy Whip Manufacturers..."

4 posted on 08/25/2012 4:00:32 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: South Hawthorne

The domestic printing industry has come under severe price pressure over the past decade or so. “Small press run” doesn’t explain the rapid inflation in the cost of college textbooks since the press run isn’t getting any smaller than it’s ever been, and the cost of printing has actually declined on smaller runs due to digital printing presses that require little setup and no printing plates.

Look elsewhere for the source of this. I’d suggest looking at royalties.


5 posted on 08/25/2012 4:07:23 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Its all a scam worked thru the college.


6 posted on 08/25/2012 4:08:13 AM PDT by ronnie raygun (BB)
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To: Mad Dawgg

This is all part of the big education bubble ready to burst. My sibling works with textbook authors - university professors who make more money cranking out new editions than they do on their day jobs. LOTS more money. The textbook industry will eventually go digital but don’t expect to see a drop in prices.


7 posted on 08/25/2012 4:13:28 AM PDT by NoExpectations
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To: Mad Dawgg
In defense of "Big Publishing," it's worth noting that college textbooks are a unique niche of the publishing industry. The cost of publishing a college textbook isn't any lower than the cost of publishing any other hardcover book (in fact, it's usually higher since these tend to be large books), but the market for these books is so small that the publishing cost per book tends to be extremely high.

In my industry we run into a problem like this on the software side. Software tools for the work we do are custom-made and extremely expensive because there simply aren't enough buyers to make it worthwhile for anyone to create and market something "off the shelf."

8 posted on 08/25/2012 4:15:03 AM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: Mad Dawgg

Kill off the hard copy and the price might be 20% less. Margin is huge on these and it’s going into the pockets of the author, the university and the publisher. Seriously, calculate the cost on running out a couple hundred sets of 400 black and white copies, and throw in maybe sixteen color copies. Less than forty dollars a pop available to anybody at your neighborhood Kinko’s. Using dedicated book manufacturing equipment is going to cost less than that. Retail $120.00? Who’s pulling whose leg?

The university, the author and the publisher would likely make more money on an e-book, they’d show a small price decrease while taking even higher markup. The threat is in losing control over the content published via that channel.


9 posted on 08/25/2012 4:24:01 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

textbooks should be low cost and reusable. the writers that make student purchase brand new, often worse textbooks just so they can profit should be ashamed


10 posted on 08/25/2012 4:26:47 AM PDT by yldstrk (My heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: Alberta's Child
In my industry we run into a problem like this on the software side. Software tools for the work we do are custom-made and extremely expensive because there simply aren't enough buyers to make it worthwhile for anyone to create and market something "off the shelf."

Oh heck, I've spent 10 years on the digital side in the publishing industry, for a publisher with small runs. It is NOT a big deal to take the existing QuarkXpress or InDesign file and turn it into an e-book. Redoing a website for downloadables is more expensive, but not much different than for any other business.

Also, print-on-demand has gotten almost reasonable for doing most textbooks. Bye bye inventory.

Regarding the small, "non-profit" bookstores, I've not seen many in a big school that was customer friendly or well laid-out. The small ones have so little overhead it is not an issue.

I am not a modern, but any change would be better than the stupid way school text books have been handled.
11 posted on 08/25/2012 4:35:58 AM PDT by Dr. Sivana ("I love to watch you talk talk talk, but I hate what I hear you say."-Del Shannon)
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To: South Hawthorne

They can’t have Kindles in public school because welfare daddy comes home, sees it and pawns it to buy drugs. Then the grade schooler can’t get a good education because the only people who can get a quality education are rich white people.
That’s what happened to the free government laptops in the schools.


12 posted on 08/25/2012 4:39:18 AM PDT by AppyPappy (If you really want to annoy someone, point out something obvious that they are trying hard to ignore)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
a free price-check that lets students compare textbook prices

Yeah, it's called a search engine. Kids have been doing this on their own for years.

One of my kids needed a physics text book whose 9th edition is almost $200 new. He found the 5th edition (almost identical and brand new with the CD that comes with it still unopened) for 11 cents on ebay. They only difference is that the order of the problems is scrambled.

There are tons of used books on ebay and Amazon. And, of course, advertised on flyers on college dorm walls.

13 posted on 08/25/2012 4:39:37 AM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Not all students are wild about the price-check tool either because the site does not yet include Amazon, and it doesn't always compare the same editions

Students learn really quick the best place to buy books is Amazon, The pric-check tool probably wants a cut in the profit through some fee for listing them and Amazon probably told them to get lost.

14 posted on 08/25/2012 4:41:57 AM PDT by ReformedBeckite (1 of 3 I'm only allowing my self each day)
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To: South Hawthorne

Textbooks are a racket, with “new” editions every few years to churn profits for publishers and authors. Notice that the professors who specify the books do not incur any expenses, and often benefit directly by royalties, and are treated royally by the publishers and bookstores.


15 posted on 08/25/2012 4:43:39 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans!)
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To: South Hawthorne
Since the books are written on our government paid or subsidized dime I think it is only just that these materials be made available at the cost of publishing them. As Obama has reminded us, They didn't write these books in the first place. ;-)
16 posted on 08/25/2012 4:44:20 AM PDT by Average Al (The Democrat party is a free range zoo.)
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To: RegulatorCountry

It’s a huge racket - RICO worthy maybe.

I have a bit of knowledge of the production side. The actual cost of materials and labor plus factory overhead to produce a book might be seven or eight bucks. This is the domestic cost - off shore might be half that.

Not sure what the editorial costs would be, but on a $100 book, could it be $90 per copy? Hmmmm


17 posted on 08/25/2012 4:44:35 AM PDT by don-o (He will not share His glory and He will NOT be mocked! Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.)
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To: FReepers; FRiends; everyone

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18 posted on 08/25/2012 4:59:12 AM PDT by onyx (FREE REPUBLIC IS HERE TO STAY! DONATE MONTHLY! IF YOU WANT ON SARAH PALIN''S PING LIST, LET ME KNOW)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
One of our daughters took an astronomy class at the local college through her high school. When she went to get the required book at the campus bookstore, it was $130 bucks....used.

By searching for the ID number online, I found the exact same book in the same condition for fifteen dollars...and that included shipping!

Needless to say, the overpriced one was returned to the bookstore.

Maybe the campus bookstores NEED to be insolvent. Either that or someone needs to take some courses on what constitutes a stable business model.

19 posted on 08/25/2012 5:02:55 AM PDT by MamaTexan (I am a Person as Created by the Laws of Nature, not a person as created by the laws of Man)
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To: South Hawthorne

My experience is that professors use text books to line their pockets.

They write 2-3 standard texts, they require them for their class, and do an updated volume every year or two. The low run printing ensures a $40-100 price.

Maddeningly, they then teach from someone else’s text, and never reference their own.

On the flip, our Catholic High School is going electronic.


20 posted on 08/25/2012 5:05:33 AM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
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To: don-o
But, but, but they run the risk of insolvency you heartless capitalist!

So, just cough it up. Academia and marxist publishing monopolies thank you for your continued support.

21 posted on 08/25/2012 5:09:42 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: ReformedBeckite

Correct. When you can find the same book for much less, word gets out. At Iowa State we had a public non profit and a private store. The private store was usually cheaper, while the university store had more inventory.


22 posted on 08/25/2012 5:22:17 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: ReformedBeckite

Correct. When you can find the same book for much less, word gets out. At Iowa State we had a public non profit and a private store. The private store was usually cheaper, while the university store had more inventory.


23 posted on 08/25/2012 5:22:41 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: AppyPappy

“That’s what happened to the free government laptops in the schools.”

Exactly! If you watch that “Pawn Stars” show on cable TV ( Filmed in Detroit) you will see them pawning laptops on most every show. Since they pass them out to the ‘po’ kids in school, there is little doubt where they come from.


24 posted on 08/25/2012 5:39:45 AM PDT by Beagle8U (Free Republic -- One stop shopping ....... It's the Conservative Super WalMart for news .)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

some subjects have no excuse for changing the book every semester. Calculus? How often is there a new research breakthrough in calculus?


25 posted on 08/25/2012 5:45:46 AM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

If a stick and some flat ground was good enough for Pythagoras, it’s good enough for me.

All kidding aside - college textbooks are way overpriced.

Back in undergrad, we had to buy the “latest edition” of the math texts. Why? The math hadn’t changed from the last edition, but they reordered the practice problems. So when the prof assigned homework, you’d be doing the wrong ones.


26 posted on 08/25/2012 5:46:50 AM PDT by P.O.E. (Pray for America)
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To: NoExpectations

They are going digital, and the prices are not dropping too much. But, some of them have caught onto the digital wave and are even offering rentals. I have either had digital or digital rentals for the last year. This session I did find a used book for $5 (wrong edition, but I compared it to the current edition, not much difference).


27 posted on 08/25/2012 5:51:50 AM PDT by ican'tbelieveit (School is prison for children who have commited the crime of being born. (attr: St_Thomas_Aquinas))
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Auburn University Bookstore already does this, including Amazon.

Simply go to
http://auburn.verbacompare.com/
I just looked up the first course and section [ACCT 2110]. The bookstore is currently sold out, but students can RENT it OR order it from Alibris, AbeBooks, Amzon, etc new or used. Prices range from $57 to $197.
Very convenient!


28 posted on 08/25/2012 6:16:54 AM PDT by StayAt HomeMother
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To: NoExpectations

We are still debating on an ebook reader. We are recreational readers and books have become quite expensive UNLESS you wait for the $8 mass market paperback, combine them in Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion w/free shipping and any Amazon or Discover card points.

However, I have recently seen new releases, especially of fiction books of over 500 pages by well-established authors, sometimes listed as _more_ for the Kindle version than for the dead tree version.


29 posted on 08/25/2012 6:18:18 AM PDT by reformedliberal
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Text books have been a major scam for the last 40 years and the schools have been in on it but the government will not investigate because . . . . the schools are the government.


30 posted on 08/25/2012 6:20:14 AM PDT by fella ("As it was before Noah, so shall it be again.")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

A system that is a scam deserves to be foiled. I would not be at all surprised if some enterprising youngster would not form a pool, buy the $200 textbook, disassemble it, scan it and share it with members of the syndicate for use on their Laptop or whatever. Would this consumption and copying not be for “personal” use and not for resale for profit?

Back in the day it was not at all uncommon for us to buy one textbook and share it and copy the problems for distribution. That was a long time ago when copying was less convenient than now. Of course the group of us also had an office on campus where we based our efforts. It was a “found” space way up in an attic and furnished with stored desks and chairs. A wonderful cooperative arrangement done under the radar screen. There were six of us, we worked in the labs, and it was great to be undergraduates with the equivalent of grad student privileges. Our profs who also used the labs turned a blind eye to our activities and seemed to enjoy the whole proposition.

Textbooks have always been a profit center for academicians and academia. Doesn’t it seem a little unethical to charge usurious prices to a captive audience?

Why should common knowledge be a profit center based monopoly?


31 posted on 08/25/2012 7:19:10 AM PDT by Sequoyah101 (Half the people are below average, they voted for oblabla.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Most subject don't change much from year to year. Math, for instance. Or even chemistry or physics. You don't need a new book every year, but the textbook monopoly would make no money that way.

Open source is the way to go for these subjects.

Free (Open Source) Textbooks Shaking Up Higher Education

32 posted on 08/25/2012 8:08:58 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Textbooks are horrendously over priced and the sale of the books is the biggest racket in the print industry.


33 posted on 08/25/2012 8:11:06 AM PDT by Jack Hammer
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To: Right Wing Assault

When I was in college I remember scraping together whatever money I could for a semester’s worth of books that usually ran around $300 to $500 THEN. One semester I remember a tab of $650. The state college bookstore also kindly included two or three credit card applications in the bag after purchase.

They used to buy our used books back after the semester...for $5 per book...and then resell them to others for more than ten times that amount. If I had the internet back then I would have scoured the country for discount, used, old editions or even some black market copies.

College bookstores are state-sanctioned ripoffs. More often than not one could have managed through the semester without more than a few of the books, which the professors wanted us to buy and then referenced for maybe one week of work.


34 posted on 08/25/2012 8:36:49 AM PDT by LostInBayport (When there are more people riding in the cart than there are pulling it, the cart stops moving...)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Thank the Greenies & the spotted owl for the price of paper causing constant price increases.

That, along with new information on any particular topic.

I think that soft-covered ‘Supplements’ to any textbook would be far cheaper than totally reprinting the books.

Thousands of books are thrown into the landfills each year by major cities school districts.


35 posted on 08/25/2012 10:18:58 AM PDT by ridesthemiles
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To: Sequoyah101
I would not be at all surprised if some enterprising youngster would not form a pool, buy the $200 textbook, disassemble it, scan it and share it with members of the syndicate for use on their Laptop or whatever.

Similar things have been going on for some years. There are websites that have full free copies of texts to download. Just like the original version of Napster and many others, the publishers try to shut them down as soon as they find them.

There are also sites that will give or sell you solutions to all the problems in math and science texts for high school and college.

There are sites that will sell you a term paper and even a Masters or PhD thesis.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. I mean on the internet.

36 posted on 08/25/2012 10:22:11 AM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

College store manager here- will not go a rant right now, except to once again note how stupid lawmakers are.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act has required all Universities to post online the textbooks being used for classes the past three years. If you did not see yours,it’s probably because the lazy professor never bothered sending his book order in.

The past two or so years, there have multiple sites that you can go to that have accessed booklists from stores online sites without permission and posted comparative prices for each class at multiple sites. Many stores now actually post the comparative prices right on their own website-we hate losing the sale, but if the student clicks in from our place and purchases, we get the affiliate income. Plus we now have some amazing purchasing tools that let us purchase en masse from marketplace sellers with one click, lowering our cost of goods and allowing us to pass savings to the students for the books we can acquire in that manner.

As for digital, it is coming, but slowly. Students are pretty savvy,but until the faculty making the decisions are totally comfy with digital - a lot of the lead faculty still are not at ease with email-it won’t be a deluge.

In short,the stuff that lawmaker is talking about has been around at least a couple of years. Typical lawmaker.


37 posted on 08/25/2012 3:53:51 PM PDT by pineybill
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To: LostInBayport
They used to buy our used books back after the semester...for $5 per book...and then resell them to others for more than ten times that amount.

Yeah, someone got rich there until the kids figured they would just leave out the middleman and sell direct to other kids.

38 posted on 08/25/2012 4:55:12 PM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: LostInBayport
They used to buy our used books back after the semester...for $5 per book...and then resell them to others for more than ten times that amount.

Same here. Saw that happen many a semester. I remember one class I took that required a new and very expensive book (first printing). We used the first two chapters of the book and no more.....

39 posted on 08/25/2012 5:47:26 PM PDT by jeffc (The U.S. media are our enemy)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
The publishers and the schools in cahoots with them want digital textbooks which will cost them 1/100th of the price to produce, for which they will charge 90% of the current price to grant temporary, non-transferable digital access to.

Printed books are much easier to use - you can make notes in them, you can buy older editions, you can sell them when you're done, you can read them in sunlight sitting under a tree and printed books don't spy on you and watch which pages your reading and tell your professor how much time you spent with their book.

The most evil thing is the phenomenon of online homework. Under the guise of automated teaching, students are charged to do their homework. The online homework access for a 6 week class I recently took was $168. Every move is then monitored and it's non-transferrable.

40 posted on 08/25/2012 7:37:53 PM PDT by jonatron (This is the Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave.)
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To: jonatron

Thank you for bringing me up to speed. I’m glad to learn the information. The Internet is so useful but also so invasive. And as someone quoted in the article cautions, also expensive.

Looks like there is no free lunch. Anyway you cut this, it’s too expensive.


41 posted on 08/25/2012 11:39:33 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: South Hawthorne
My kids (in grade school) still lug around 45 lbs of stupid text books...

Their bigger burden is probably 165 pounds of stupid teacher. :)

42 posted on 08/25/2012 11:44:06 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves (CTRL-GALT-DELETE)
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