Logos by Subscription?

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Bob Pritchett | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:14 AM

I believe the future is a mix of purchased and subscription products. The benefits of full purchase are obvious: pay once, you get it, and you're done.

But full purchase requires local installation (great for offline use, bad for system incompatibilities, support, OS upgrades, multiple devices, etc.) and your locally installed software can 'get stale.' Not to mention, you need to back things up, move personal data between devices, etc.

Subscription products (particularly web-delivered) risk going down when the company dies, or its servers do (!), but offer lower up front costs, easier access from new/different devices, no local storage or maintenance needs, etc.

To a business, subscribers represent less cash up front (bad!) but hopefully more cash down the road (good), more predictable cash flow (good), and revenue that funds ongoing support costs for data storage, software maintenance, etc.

With all that said... I'd love to get your input on what types of subscriptions Logos could/should offer. Note that we already offer Proclaim by subscription only -- so there's never a need to 'buy an upgrade' -- but you are paying for it every month. Smaller updates come out more frequently, and new media content is offered via the Pro Media add-on subscription every month. We also offer some resources for rental now: https://blog.logos.com/2013/09/new-rent-logos-resources/

(To keep this from being an 'own vs. rent' religious war, I will stipulate right now that we are not intending to end the ability to buy Logos Bible Software in a single transaction. This is about getting input for new models to reach people who can't / won't buy it, or to offer more affordable or more flexible access to new kinds of content.)

Discussion Ideas:

Online only vs. offline software, too. Should subscription access to Logos Bible Software be only for online use (say, http://biblia.com  with lots more functionality from the desktop version) or should you be able to use the desktop apps by subscription, too?

Whole books or growing libraries. Subscriptions could be to specific sets of titles -- these 400 books for a monthly access fee -- or only to things that grow, like our media libraries, teaching media, etc. Collections of content that you subscribe to because the subscription revenue goes into creating more content.

Temporary book access. When you subscribe to Netflix you get access to thousands of streaming movies, but movies come and go from the collection. Would you subscribe to a 1,000 book library if not all the books were permanent? What if 100 of the books rotated every three months? You might get fresher / more-valuable new content from publishers, but only for a few months. (This could incentivize publishers to allow more valuable content into a subscription library, in the hopes that it would provoke some permanent sales.)

All-in or toe-in-the-water. If you were going to subscribe, would you like to just pay one monthly fee and get access to a massive library ($100/mo for Collector's?) or would you prefer to still own your core library and purchase smaller supplemental subscriptions? ($10/mo for a supplemental set of resources.)

Subscription groups. Would a subscription be more valuable if it could be shared? What if a pastor bought a large subscription, but as a side effect everyone in that church (or on that church's staff?) got access to a portion of it, too? (Pastor gets Collector's Edition for online/offline use, whole church gets Starter equivalent for online and mobile use?) Would this make it more attractive to subscribe?

A vote on new content. Netflix and Amazon both offer original television shows as part of their streaming video products. Netflix crunches data to guess what people will want, and produces a whole season. Amazon made ten pilots and let customers vote on which ones got full seasons. What if subscribers could vote on new data sets, annotation, tagging, and media creation? A certain percentage of subscription revenue could be dedicated to new content production, and users could collectively direct that content creation.

How much? Netflix is $8.99 / month, but satellite television can top $100 / month. Internet access can be $20-50+ / month. What price points should Logos offer? Just low price points with multiple options/collections so you can build your own subscription? Or a single, higher price with tons more content in the subscription?

What are your thoughts?

-- Bob

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:18 AM

I for one would not be at all interested in options that can't be installed locally although I do understand the reason behind why that would be an option:

Bob Pritchett:
Subscription products (particularly web-delivered) risk going down when the company dies, or its servers do (!), but offer lower up front costs, easier access from new/different devices, no local storage or maintenance needs, etc.


I would feel much better about an option to get rid of all the items in Starter (for example when upgrading a lifetime purchase):

Bob Pritchett:
Subscription groups. Would a subscription be more valuable if it could be shared? What if a pastor bought a large subscription, but as a side effect everyone in that church (or on that church's staff?) got access to a portion of it, too? (Pastor gets Collector's Edition for online/offline use, whole church gets Starter equivalent for online and mobile use?) Would this make it more attractive to subscribe?


This sounds OK:

Bob Pritchett:
Temporary book access. When you subscribe to Netflix you get access to thousands of streaming movies, but movies come and go from the collection. Would you subscribe to a 1,000 book library if not all the books were permanent? What if 100 of the books rotated every three months? You might get fresher / more-valuable new content from publishers, but only for a few months. (This could incentivize publishers to allow more valuable content into a subscription library, in the hopes that it would provoke some permanent sales.)

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Mike Pettit | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:26 AM

I am not sure how you could combine the two approaches successfully (both practically and financially) and there is the worry that those of us who have sunk literally a small fortune into our libraries could be left behind when new developments sideline us.

I do believe that there is an obvious issue of how do you fund servicing existing libraries when they generate no income, and the tactic you have adopted of continual growth is always bound to end badly.

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:41 AM

As a precaution, in order to enable offline usage too You'd have to create a rule that each user who has subscribed to those items would have to sign in with their softwares regularly or else a timer built-in in the desktop app would erase that subscribed content:

Bob Pritchett:
Online only vs. offline software, too. Should subscription access to Logos Bible Software be only for online use (say, http://biblia.com  with lots more functionality from the desktop version) or should you be able to use the desktop apps by subscription, too?

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James Hiddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:43 AM

A monthly rental library maybe. Rent certain books and collections that Logos offers and if one likes it they can buy it at a discount.

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:46 AM

Bob, if You believe it would result in less download, it would be a good idea.

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Whyndell Grizzard | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 9:46 AM

Not interested in subscriptions at all, at any level. I want to own what I pay for. 

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 10:13 AM

Hi Bob

Thanks for raising this and for asking our opinions

Bob Pritchett:
Online only vs. offline software, too. Should subscription access to Logos Bible Software be only for online use (say, http://biblia.com  with lots more functionality from the desktop version) or should you be able to use the desktop apps by subscription, too?

I think that any subscription model should extend to offline use as well. While the core apps are free it could be useful to be able to subscribe to different datasets and resources - in a similar way to how I can currently subscribe to the complete set of Classic Commentaries and use them within my Logos environment

Bob Pritchett:
Whole books or growing libraries. Subscriptions could be to specific sets of titles -- these 400 books for a monthly access fee -- or only to things that grow, like our media libraries, teaching media, etc. Collections of content that you subscribe to because the subscription revenue goes into creating more content.

I think having both options would be ideal. I was recently looking at the option of renting the 7 volume "Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms as I wanted access to Goldingay's commentary on the Psalms for a series I was doing and having this option is helpful. 

Bob Pritchett:
Temporary book access. When you subscribe to Netflix you get access to thousands of streaming movies, but movies come and go from the collection. Would you subscribe to a 1,000 book library if not all the books were permanent? What if 100 of the books rotated every three months? You might get fresher / more-valuable new content from publishers, but only for a few months. (This could incentivize publishers to allow more valuable content into a subscription library, in the hopes that it would provoke some permanent sales.)

Personally I wouldn't find this useful as I like to know that what I have "obtained" is something I will have access to in the future

Bob Pritchett:
All-in or toe-in-the-water. If you were going to subscribe, would you like to just pay one monthly fee and get access to a massive library ($100/mo for Collector's?) or would you prefer to still own your core library and purchase smaller supplemental subscriptions? ($10/mo for a supplemental set of resources.)

I would go for the latter option - allows greater flexibility in building the library I want

Bob Pritchett:
Subscription groups. Would a subscription be more valuable if it could be shared? What if a pastor bought a large subscription, but as a side effect everyone in that church (or on that church's staff?) got access to a portion of it, too? (Pastor gets Collector's Edition for online/offline use, whole church gets Starter equivalent for online and mobile use?) Would this make it more attractive to subscribe?

This could be helpful in some contexts. In my current situation it wouldn't be particularly helpful

Bob Pritchett:
A vote on new content. Netflix and Amazon both offer original television shows as part of their streaming video products. Netflix crunches data to guess what people will want, and produces a whole season. Amazon made ten pilots and let customers vote on which ones got full seasons. What if subscribers could vote on new data sets, annotation, tagging, and media creation? A certain percentage of subscription revenue could be dedicated to new content production, and users could collectively direct that content creation.

It sounds interesting but I'm not sure how it would really work.

I didn't know that I "needed" the new capabilities in Logos 6 but I find them very useful - would need to work through how to provide a sufficiently informed context for such an option to work

Bob Pritchett:
How much? Netflix is $8.99 / month, but satellite television can top $100 / month. Internet access can be $20-50+ / month. What price points should Logos offer? Just low price points with multiple options/collections so you can build your own subscription? Or a single, higher price with tons more content in the subscription?

I would go for the low print points with options approach - it would provide much more flexibility but could - presumably - be more complex to manage

Overall I'm still not convinced, however, that I would personally use a subscription model. I think that I would rather make upfront payments and know that was it (in the Bakers example above I ended up purchasing the Goldingay volumes) 

Hope this is helpful.

Graham

Posts 2770
Erwin Stull, Sr. | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 10:14 AM

Subscriptions may offer some advantage to a strictly academic student setting/environment, but offer a disadvantage to constant practitioners (I guess I'm choosing the term correctly). For those who plan to keep the resources forever, a subscription will also mean paying forever without the chance of owning.

The Netflix type of option, where the resources are routinely rotated, is a definite disadvantage. What happens to ones research or study, when prior to completion, the resources that were used is suddenly taken away? Unlike watching a movie, Bible Study on a topic often takes months.

Other than a strictly academic setting, I really don't see any advantage in subscriptions of any Bible Study resource.

Posts 271
James Hudson | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 10:32 AM

I, too, would not personally be interested in a subscription option, although I guess some potential new customers may be.

A question though: What would happen if (as has happened before) Logos fails to re-negotiate its contract wth a publisher (a la Moody). With a purchase only solution, purchased books are still owned by the user even if they are no longer available for purchase by new users. I guess, in a subscription system, the books would be lost?? subscription fees reduced?? etc

Also slightly empathise with Mike Pettit and his concern that eventually purchase-only users may get sidelined a little (although I've been with Logos long enough to trust the integrity of Bob that he would not deliberately intend this to happen).

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Justin Gatlin | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 10:36 AM

I like owning content, and the illusion that eventually I will finish with my Logos payments. But, I can definitely see the value of subscriptions.

For me, online only is a non-starter. I am already frustrated with Logos dependence on the cloud. A lot of us are in rural areas and need reliable Bible study too.

How much - I think this should be linked to the cost to buy. I will address this out of order, since I will use this formula later. Maybe what payments would be on a 4 year purchase. Total Cost/48 months + $5 fee, like you would for payments

Libraries - I think subscriptions could be done on a basis similar to collections. If I am teaching through Colossians, I might subscribe to the Platinum library ($50/mo), as well as the XL Bible Backgrounds bundle ($12/mo),the XL NT Studies Bundle ($12/mo) and the XL Pauline Studies Bundle ($12/mo). That is $86/mo. If the $5 fee is only charged once, instead of on each part, that puts me at $71/mo. That would be reasonable. Offer a church subscription access to Gold for the pastor (reg $37/mo), 3 bundles for the current series, Proclaim and online access to starter for the church for $100/mo and I think you are really onto something. I don't think that should be tied to church size, since I think that Logos will sell to more individuals with the exposure, and publishers should recognize that. The Starter subscription can only be initiated through a Proclaim signal and will be tied to that church's  monthly subscription from that point on, to minimize abuse. Unlike with purchases, you would really have to negotiate some discount for the Associate/Youth/etc. I think half price on the lower package would be fair (so if the church has the $100/month Platinum combo, the Youth Pastor can get Gold for $21/mo (1550/(48*2))+5, reg. $37.

I really like the "subscription groups" idea, especially if Proclaim's cues could link people to a part of the book from the church subscription. I would like to see this for the upper level purchases, though, not just subscriptions. Since books.logos.com comes with a 2-year free subscription with your base package, it could be that all church members get access to 2 years of starter with a purchase of Platinum or higher. This would keep those who have bought software outright from becoming second class citizens in the Logos ecosystem.

I think CP is still the best way to determine new content, and that people who are purchasing outright will always make up a large enough portion of the user base for that to work.

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 11:02 AM

My only interest in a rental option would be for expensive, voluminous reference materials that I would use once in a blue moon.  In other words, the kind of materials that I would be unlikely to ever buy in paper format, but might go to a university library for if I had a special research project. For me, examples might be:

  • Collections of theological journals (e.g., Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies)
  • Migne's Patrilogia series
  • The Fathers of the Church series
  • Muller's Sacred Books of the East
  • The Classics of Western Spirituality: Judaism, Islam and Native American Religions series
  • Archives of historical documents for the various churches and denominations

For books that I might have purchased in paper form, I would rather own than rent. But I would gladly pay a reasonable fee to avoid having to hoof it down to the library for the research materials I would never buy for myself.  In a truly perfect world, I'd like to have the option to pay the fee on an ad hoc basis - say, for example, one month's access to Migne or the Fathers of the Church when I'm doing a paper on the early church.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 1:55 PM

I am one of those people who would prefer to own rather than rent but I see the value of both.

If I was to subscribe

  1. I'd definitely like to be able to do it off-line as well because there are many places I go that still don't have access to the internet and there is not even any cellular coverage.
  2. I'd like the option to be able to subscribe to different sizes of packages e.g. single volume, a series, a category of books and perhaps one that would cover everything. Obviously they would have to be priced accordingly.

I don't like the idea of subscribers being able to vote on new content. Why should subscribers get preference over owners in this regard? If they did get preference it would imply that they valued more highly and I don't think this should be the case.

Bob, thanks for continually asking our opinions on things. Much appreciated. Yes

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

Posts 521
Russ White | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 2:33 PM

So -- IMHO, subscription can mean multiple things, and it all depends on what you mean when you use the term. For instance, I subscribe to Office rather than purchasing Office yearly -- the value is good, and the product solid. The key point is, though -- Office works when the MS servers are off line, or I don't have an internet connection. Software that I must be connected to the internet to use in full is generally useless. When I was in Greenland this summer, access was so expensive as to require essentially shutting down my wifi -- if Logos would have connected to its servers so I could access some piece of information, the result could easily have been a bill that was multiple hundreds of dollars.

The second issue is that you're resource bound with Logos, rather than feature bound. If there were certain data sets I could subscribe to, rather than purchase, I might be interested... For the length of a study, or a particular project, or a paper. The resources I tend to buy in Logos, however, tend to be resources I think i will use for the next 20 years. It's going to take some changing of the ship to make users get used to thinking of Logos as a rental rather than a license, and the licensing is going to be really confusing really fast (as if it weren't confusing enough -- several of my friends didn't upgrade to 6 at all simply because they couldn't figure the packages, crossgrades and various options out, so they gave up and stuck with 5).

So, bottom line -- so long as "rental" isn't tied up with "cloud" (I know you think cloud is the future, but I can tell you there is already backlash building, even on the consumer side -- see my talk at TFI2014), and so long as the licensing makes perfectly clear sense (you're already losing sales because of your complex model), then rental is a viable idea.

HTH

Russ

Posts 80
Pastor Kay | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 2:53 PM

Ooh!  Now this is exciting. I think I'm mostly interested in offline options- though I might pay a buck to try something online-only for a couple hours, just to get a feel for a resource. 

I think I'd be most interested in small supplemental rental options- particularly of big-budget items, like the Anchor Bible Commentaries.  Possibly also rent-to-own (rent it for a month to try it, and at the end of the month get the option to either A- rent it another month, B- continue paying the "rental" price as a payment plan, essentially going into a several-month payment plan but with the option to cancel and give back the resource at any time with no consequences, C- give it back but Logos keeps the one month rental fee, D- pay the purchase price minus rental fee in full.

To organize these options going by author or series might be best, or perhaps even publisher- but please keep sensible boundaries.  I don't want to only be able to rent Luther's Works if I also have to download 5000 100 year old Baptist sermons.  (In fact, with group download rentals there should always be an option to opt-out of each piece, still paying full price for the rental.  And I imagine that Dynamic Pricing, if you're going to rent something you already own a piece of, might be kind of irritating for you all but I would expect it.)

Being able to "rent' the big packages for one month as a trial, with no consequences if you decided to give it back at the end, would be lovely too.  (Or less than a month, but certainly a couple weeks).  (Say $20 to try Anchor Bible?)  Would this be like TurningArt where the rental fees you pay turn into store credit and you can use them to buy stuff?

Students could rent textbooks from you and then decide if they want to keep them at the end of their class- paying say ten dollars a month for five months and then deciding at the end if they want to pay the rest, or in installments, or give it back.

The rotating temporary library sounds trickier- not sure I'd subscribe to that on more than a single-rotation basis.  Unless you told us in advance everything that would rotate in and out for a full year ahead of time?

If I'm going to pay you a hundred dollars I'd rather just buy something I can keep.  I'd say keep all rental prices under $30 a month- mostly well under.

However, I would like to point out that I like the idea but would prefer you add a few more things to some of your current software first (being able to read clippings and sort the library by tags, collection, or download status on the Windows store app, which is all my tablet can support, would be AWESOME).

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 3:10 PM

I think all subscription models will go the way of the dodo. There's just no real-life scenario where they're needed.

With one major exception: institutional clients, e.g research bodies, theological seminaries, etc. You'd need to tweak the licencing and login model.

Posts 2705
mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 4:42 PM

Your questions prompted my recollection of my former employer which specialized in fleet leasing (automobiles, vans, trucks) for corporate clients. Their approach was to handle most every aspect of supplying, maintaining, insuring, registrations, licensing and fueling. Very complex business model but it took an enormous burden off their clients.

I think that either seminaries and libraries would be your best market for this if you can provide a service that minimizes their burden.

For most of us, maybe a subscribe/rent with an option to own might suffice. 

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Posts 680
Ted Weis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 6:12 PM

Subscriptions for temporary access to Mobile Education courses could be appealing

Posts 462
Dave Moser | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 6:46 PM

Bob,

Thanks for asking the community about this. The reasons I can see myself renting from Logos:

  1. I'm working on a sermon/study/project and really want to work from an individual commentary/background/resource for which I don't want to pay full price and won't use after the immediate work is done.
  2. I'm looking into the quality of a commentary/media/etc set and want to use one volume of the set to consider buying the whole thing.

At no point do I see myself renting a large library (that, knowing Logos, won't be focused in any useful way - remember how Beale's NT theology was locked away in that ridiculous collection for ages? Yep, had to buy it in hard back). That's going to influence my answers:

Bob Pritchett:
Online only vs. offline software, too. Should subscription access to Logos Bible Software be only for online use (say, http://biblia.com  with lots more functionality from the desktop version) or should you be able to use the desktop apps by subscription, too?

It would be more convenient for me if my rented product was well integrated into my normal workflow. I would rent more frequently if this were the case.

Bob Pritchett:
Temporary book access. When you subscribe to Netflix you get access to thousands of streaming movies, but movies come and go from the collection. Would you subscribe to a 1,000 book library if not all the books were permanent? What if 100 of the books rotated every three months? You might get fresher / more-valuable new content from publishers, but only for a few months. (This could incentivize publishers to allow more valuable content into a subscription library, in the hopes that it would provoke some permanent sales.)

I would almost certainly not lease a Netflix-style library. As I indicated above, I only foresee myself renting specific resources for specific tasks, not trying out large libraries. If I have to choose between renting a 1k-book library or not renting at all, I won't spend the money.

Bob Pritchett:
All-in or toe-in-the-water. If you were going to subscribe, would you like to just pay one monthly fee and get access to a massive library ($100/mo for Collector's?) or would you prefer to still own your core library and purchase smaller supplemental subscriptions? ($10/mo for a supplemental set of resources.)

I would only rent to supplement my library.

Bob Pritchett:
Subscription groups. Would a subscription be more valuable if it could be shared? What if a pastor bought a large subscription, but as a side effect everyone in that church (or on that church's staff?) got access to a portion of it, too? (Pastor gets Collector's Edition for online/offline use, whole church gets Starter equivalent for online and mobile use?) Would this make it more attractive to subscribe?

Getting a whole church to adopt an update to the pew Bible they use is hard enough. There's no way I'm going to get a congregation to jump into a specific brand of Bible software. I could see this working at a university/seminary/Christian publishing company but not in local churches.

Bob Pritchett:
A vote on new content. Netflix and Amazon both offer original television shows as part of their streaming video products. Netflix crunches data to guess what people will want, and produces a whole season. Amazon made ten pilots and let customers vote on which ones got full seasons. What if subscribers could vote on new data sets, annotation, tagging, and media creation? A certain percentage of subscription revenue could be dedicated to new content production, and users could collectively direct that content creation.

Time lag is the fundamental problem here: With the length of time between request, prepub, "in development" to final launch it's not like I ever get the resource I need in Logos format before the project I'm working on is long over so what's the point? No one cares about this for Netflix because entertainment isn't time-critical. If Logos was just for my personal enjoyment that would be one thing but it's for my classes and ministry - I have deadlines that don't wait for my votes to become someone else's projects before it's ever available to me.

If my auto mechanic told me he couldn't work on my car because the wrench he voted on was in prepub I'd find a new mechanic. The product you built is for users who, like the mechanic, need professional tools at a moment's notice not months from now.

Also, don't we have the suggestions forum and Uservoice for just this purpose? How would this proposal be different?

Bob Pritchett:
How much? Netflix is $8.99 / month, but satellite television can top $100 / month. Internet access can be $20-50+ / month. What price points should Logos offer? Just low price points with multiple options/collections so you can build your own subscription? Or a single, higher price with tons more content in the subscription?

An example of a rental model I'd use: I want to rent an individual NICOT volume for a month for $5.

Posts 352
Cynthia Tucker | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Nov 29 2014 7:40 PM

I'd like a rent to own option, but I wonder how it would be different than the payment plan I'm on now? I guess renting would be cheaper? I'm viewing the Rent Logos Resources page now to get an idea of how that's already working.

EDIT: OK I've checked it out. The Classic Commentaries are on my wish list. (By the way, the link to this set on the rental page posted above doesn't work.)

It's $124 a month for 24 months if I want to own it and $49.95 per month to rent. I could only see myself renting it for no longer than 3 months. After that, I'd feel I might as well purchase it.

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