back to article Sony PRS-505 Reader e-book

Since words written on paper have kept civilised humans amused and off the streets for the best part of five-and-a-half thousand years, anything that hopes to replace it had better be good. With this is mind, and in an effort to make the printing press obsolete, Sony has released the PRS-505 Reader - a book, Jim, but not as we …

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Wot? No RSS?

Geeks love this device (I do), but the literati - Luddites at best - just don't seem to 'get it'. In the same way that vinyl-o-philes didn't 'get' the iPod when it came out. 'Why would you want to carry around all your music with you?'. Just like podcasts, this device, and others like it, will probably become newpapers, RSS readers, student textbooks etc. The University of Philadelphia are already piloting using it instead of textbooks in their English classes.

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Lee
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Sounds good....

but does it have a backlight so i can read in bed without the light on??

If it does i could well be trading my old ipaq in for one of these

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Flame

VFM - WTF?

Picked an e-book at random from Waterstones web site.

A Time to Die by Wilbur Smith

Waterstones e-book

£5.44.

Amazon.co.uk paperback

£5.99 with free delivery.

So after spunking £200 on the device, it will take me 400 books before I break even. At my current rate of one a month, that's 33 years.

Can I transfer rights (i.e. sell on or give away) the ebooks after I've bought them? Or am I just renting them until the format becomes unsupported?

This is the biggest pisstake since Sky offered to charge me for viewing content on my PC that I've already paid for on my STB.

E-books should be a couple of quid a pop.

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Pricey

"At £199 and in the absence of anything to directly compare it with, the Reader is probably best described as reasonable value for money."

Try comparing it with paper books, perhaps? I'd do it for you, but it's been done already many times.

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Waiting

As with most brand new products I think I will be waiting until the 3rd or 4th versions appear and all the bugs have been ironed out. As a first-of-it's-kind I would be interested to know what the '505' refers to

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Piracy

Cant help but wonder when the first book pirates will now emerge...

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Excellent

I've got one. Installed a couple of hundreds of copyright free e-books from Project Gutenberg. Buying (or printing) those on paperbacks would have costed me in excess of £199.

I used to read on my 3.5" PDA, but reading on this is a revelation.Not only is it easier on my eye, I can read outdoors in the park. As I read through 3-5 books a week, I think it has been money well spent.

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consumer interface

No system for annotations — even the bog-ugly kindle has a keyboard — means this thing is useless for anything but mere consumption. Anyone actually working with text has to spring for a system with keyboard/touchscreen. So nice hardware, Sony, too bad it is so limited.

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Anonymous Coward

strange...

While its a good device, it was released nearly a year ago in the US and Sony are set to announce their next e-book reader next month.

I wonder why they are choosing to release this old model in the UK so close to the release of a newer model.

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Anonymous Coward

Large numbers of titles

Yes, you can put a lot of books onto one of the cards and load it. The slight problem is that parsing the books for the metadata used in the index pages and cacheing takes a while and does bad things to the batteries.

I stuck an SD card with around 900 titles on it into a reader. It took slightly over half an hour to finish booting while it cached the metadata and drained 30% of the battery doing so. Only happens when the content of the card is changed but it's worth bearing in mind.

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Anonymous Coward

More info?

It's easy to display a text file on screen. But I'm curious as to how well it works firstly with formatted text like PDFs that are divided into pages, and secondly with works that contain more than just plain text - tables, charts, diagrams, pictures.

If you're wanting to read textbooks or manuals on this device - which would be useful both for students and for people needing to consult a range of reference material - the question of how it supports formatting is going to be important.

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Now if the publishers would just "get it"

I've owned a 505 for a few months now, and it's probably my favorite device. I've always read more on a portable device since I can have it with me easier than paper books. I've never been a very fast reader, but I'm finding that my reading speed is increasing quite a bit since I started using the Sony. It's more comfortable to curl up with than a paperback since I don't have to hold it open, and I don't have to shift position for left/right side reading.

So far most publishers either don't do ebooks at all, or they price them the same as hardcovers (seriously, WTF?) - it's common to see $5.99 for softcover, $15 for hardcover, $18 for ebook. I don't even know what they're thinking there.

Or they have DRM. I've vowed not to buy ANY DRMd ebooks. Depending on your reading preferences, there may be tons of stuff out there that is free or at least doesn't have DRM. Baen Books _really_ gets it - they sell ebooks for a few bucks less than the paperback price, often just $4 or so, and they have a good selection of books from their popular science fiction authors available for free in their free library.

Baen books is currently the only publisher that's gotten ANY of my money, because they're the only company that is giving me what I want. And because I respect what they're doing, I'm also doing the right thing and keeping my paid-for copies to myself, but I *could* sell them if I wanted to, or I suppose give them away (and delete my copies). Same as with paper.

Also there's the mobileread.com community - if something is PD (especially if it's available in the Gutenberg library) some kind soul on mobileread has probably already done an excellent job of formatting it for your reader. I just read Orwell's 1984 a few weeks ago, and the Sony LRF copy on mobileread was very nicely done indeed.

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Pleased with mine

I'm a self confessed book lover, have my walls lined with the things at home. I bought one of these for my commute and upcoming traveling around the world. I have to say its a fantastic device, Sony have got many things right with the design of this. However, the software is nothing short of shocking! Why o why can't Sony get some decent developers to knock out some decent supporting software?? Same happened with their shit mp3 player software (perhaps still shit i don't know)

Anyway, not overly concerned as I am using some free program called Calibre, and its very very good. I have even managed to track down .lit versions of pretty much every sci-fi book I already own and not really interested in paying for again :-) yay

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Mobireader + PRC out-of-copyright books

Get yourself a WinXP netbook, download the free Mobireader application, and search EBay for vendors offering out-of-copyright e-books in PRC format on DVD (PRC is an extremely compact format, Mobireader will let you display in any font you have on your computer and in any size).

Forget about in copyright e-books until book publishers find a more realistic charging system.

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Anonymous Coward

Early adopters always get stiffed

Nice device, but i bet you anything that by this time next year it'll be half the price and include an OLED light panel for night reading.

Still tempting though, especially after downloading that huge torrent containing almost every sci-fi book ever in txt form. *cough*

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No Comparable Product?

The CyBook Bookeen is entirely comparable and has greater format compatibility.

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@Lee

The main point of not having a backlight is so you can save your eyesight for a little longer!!

You can buy an small clip-on light to attach to this device, check out Amazon and eBay.

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Lots to compare this to

Shoddy research here, el reg. This is turning into the Jesus E-reader ...

"in the absence of anything to directly compare it with" ... erm, how about the Kindle, the Iliad (http://www.iliadreader.co.uk) or the Cybook (http://www.bookeen.com) ???

"touch-screen UI would be a more elegant solution, assuming of course it was technically feasible." ... if you'd looked at the Iliad, you'd have seen it already has a stylus-operated touch-screen. It's not very practical, still very expensive, and charitably best described as a "beta" product and I must admit I didn't bother replacing mine when a friend sat on it. I've gone back to using a PDA. I know ... ancient technology, but it has a quick refresh rate, you can read it in dim conditions and you can do an awful lot else with it.

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Heart

to the editor of the Register Hardware

If you guys actually started reading manuals of the devices you test your reviews would be so much more accurate...

"Did we say reasonable speed? Well, for moving from one page to the next, yes. But for flipping back from say page 235 to page 45 because you forgot what one character said, or to flip back and forth to any maps you have forgotten to bookmark - vital if The Lord of the Rings ever comes out as an eBook - it's really just a little slow and cumbersome."

Well, those 10 little numbered buttons on the right side of the device are there for a reason - so you can type in any page number and jump right to it without much of a wait! There is also "bookmarks" feature button, can mark pages and revert back to them at a touch of a button (or 2) :P

All I can say - Read The Freaking Manual ! :))))

This is a great little device, I have been using it since April 2008 and it's been a joy all the way, especially during long flights!

Can't wait for the next version due out in October 2008!!!

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Wait for Developments

@Lee - No backlight unfortunately. But it is superb in bright daylight. I believe there is a 'light' accessory which is worth investigating.

The e-ink technology is great and is bound to fall a lot further in price. At the same time, I'm expecting great things from the flexible e-ink screens still in development.

Will watch this space with great interest, but £200 is still pushing it for me.

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Happy

@Rik Hemsley

Hey, there are plenty of free books published on the web, I have yet to pay for a book since I got the device for $300 from the US.

Watch out for the new 3rd version of Sony Reader coming out in October 2008!

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Distinctly lacking

Technology wise - the Reader is very cool. But compared to paper books, very expensive, and who needs to take 200 books with them on holiday? Also the usual ripoff price here compared to the US price.

Compared to the Kindle, this is a very weak device, which has the killer app of wireless data as well.

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Pirate

Pricey?

A quick visit to the "bay" and one can avail oneself of practically the whole english canon...

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Alert

Password protected PDF's

I have several password protected PDF's, does anyone know how this thing will work with these as there is no keyboard?

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So ugly

I don't know why there seems to be so much adoration for its looks. It's hideous. So many buttons of inconsistent shape and size. Such horrible grey tones.

Why on earth does it need so many buttons? Even if they all have a specific use, they are not sufficiently labelled to make that use clear.

As for the price; the only reason I can see for getting one is if you plan to only read free books, or pirate books to your heart's content. After all, what you are essentially paying for otherwise is a magic weightless volumeless bag you can stick all your paperbacks in; and considering most people only read one book at a time, even this is of limited use.

I'll wait until it's built into my phone, I'm sure it won't be long.

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Touchscreen?

More pseudo-transparent crap betwixt text and eyeball, on a screen without any artificial illumination. Genius.

(Otherwise nice review, ta much.)

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Happy

Got One

OK, hand up, I have one, bought in the USA in January.

This is my second Sony Reader, and it's not a Rev 1 product :-)

No back light, but neither does a deadwood-paper book.

Kinda confused what all the who-ha is about, ebook readers have been around 10 years (anyone remember Rocket readers?)

And remember, there's lots of other websites selling books around the £2.00 mark that people were asking about.

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rubbish

1. FAR too expensive

This kind of device should be £50 at most. You can buy very decent laptop for that money these days.

2. No backlight (!)

I regularly read ebooks on my Zaurus SL-C3100. The main reason I love reading my books on it is because it doesn't hurt my eyes because of the backlight. I don't read paper books anymore for only this reason alone.

3. Too slow

Don't know what processor is in it, but it takes 1-2 seconds for a page to turn !!! Tried this in Sony shop.

4. DRM

Nuff said. Apparently you can't even backup this device - I read it somewhere on the net, so if your reader breaks, say goodbye to your books.

On the other hand I do understand the need for slow CPU and no backlight, keeps the battery going for very long time (in this case). But, and that is a big mama but(t), why sacrifice this for usability? Surely there must be a middle ground...?

I think there will be more devices like this to come in the near future. And I can't wait!

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Pirate

Re Pricey

@Pricey: that would be about 20 books then. You get a CD with 100 books included. Granted they are out of copyright... but still.

Got mine the other day and have loaded onto it all Hugo award winners going back to the 50s (cough!!..torrent).

Also got 5 gigs worth of e-books I've been wanting to read from the 70s and 80s, most of which are no longer in print.

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Les
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Nice kit

When this was first announced, I was interested. My interest waned a bit when I saw the currently excessive prices Waterstone's are asking for DRM eBooks.

My interest waxed again when I found more sources of reading material at more friendly prices (free is a nicely friendly price).

Then I played with one in my local Waterstone's. Well, it took me a few seconds to realise I *could* play. At first glance, I though the crisp, clear display was a mock-up. A quick fiddle convinced me that the UI is just about right.

If you haven't actually seen an eInk display, you need to have a look at one before dismissing it. It's nothing like an LCD...

So yeah, I bought one.

And Lee - there's no backlight, but there is an optional light accessory thingy.

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Anonymous Coward

TNG

I'll wait another "3 to 5 years" - the contrast is not good enough on the current generation.

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Wot no search?

By failing to include a search facility, Sony have lost one of the key advantages of having a computerised book. How short-sighted.

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Getting there

They seem to have missed a few tricks that might have been included if they'd thought of operating the thing like a book rather than a small text and music device.

Something like 'dog-ears' and Post-its would help. Oh, and trying to remember that some people are left-handed. Certainly missed a trick by not having the ability to 'turn' the pages now that the IPhone is getting popular.

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RE: VFM - WTF?

Agreed Waterstones isn't particularly cheap, however there are many other sites where you can get books for 2 or 3 quid.

I've also downloaded many free books from various publishers like Baen and Tor (yes i like SciFi/Fantasy) as well as classics from Project Gutenberg etc. which is more than enough to cover the cost of the reader.

I use the opensource program Calibre to manage and convert the format of my ebooks and it also has RSS synchronization.

And for those who want a backlight a replacement cover is available which includes alight.

Since I've had mine (1 week) 5 of my friends/colleagues have purchased one based on trying mine...I should be on commission!

All in all a definite 9+/10.

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Compare it too...

You can get mobireader on symbian, windoze mobile, pc etc. Why not compare it to that?...

I have a couple of books on mine and its fine if im stuck somewhere I can read a good book. Theres no way i'd pay £200 for a dedicated device though. Esp one which can't even search - one of the main benefits of any ebook reader.

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Light / Cost of books

To respons to a couple of comments above - it doesn't have a backlight as eInk displays cannot have such a thing - the whole display is opaque. If the light is good enough to read a normal book, you can read this. What is less commonly noted in reviews is that it works the other way too - in really bright light, an LCD would wash out, but this is perfectly readable, just like a sheet of paper.

There is a "lighted cover" available for it for about £40. This is a replacement cover for the book and has a lucite square designed to fit perfectly over the screen and illuminate it. I don't have one yet, but apparently it does the job well.

As for book cost, rule number one is not to buy from Waterstones. Check out Fictionwise.com - they supply a lot of books in LRF (Sony reader) format and they are much cheaper, being of course a supplier to the USA. A bit of net trawling and you'll work out how to convert just about any other book format readily available for sale (apart from Kindle) into LRF.

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@ John Latham

"E-books should be a couple of quid a pop."

Only if you believe that most of the cost of a book is made up of printing and distribution. In reality, a lot of the cost is made up paying the author (!), editing, copyediting, typesetting and marketing it, plus some profit for the publisher.

Which isn't to say that ebooks are overpriced (they are). But that asking for ebooks of new content for almost no cost misses the point. Ebooks still require the same production values as print, and still have some (albeit much reduced) costs for production and distribution.

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David Copperfield

Not sure where you got the 2.9mb for David Copperfield from, I just tried downloading it from manybooks.net and it came to 958K.

But I've had a prs-500 for over a year and just upgraded to a UK 505 and don't regret it at all

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Anonymous Coward

Missing the point

People comparing this to notebooks and PDAs are missing the point. This thing allows you to read outdoors and have a battery life that allows you to read the whole Harry Potter series without recharging - excellent while flying long distance. Try that with your 2 hour notebook or small screen PDA.

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@Elmer Phud

WTF is a "dog-ear"?! Do you mean bookmarks? Because it does those.

Also it's just fine for left handed people. That's why the page turning buttons are on both sides of the device!

FWIW I think it's an excellent bit of kit, and two other people who have seen mine have gone on to buy one the next day.

Agree with the Waterstones prices though, what a piss take! Unless eBooks end up less than half the price of a paper version, they won't be seeing any of my cash.

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Love it - but...

I still haven't got it to work with the Waterstones store. Every time I try to put one of their DRMed titles on to the Reader, it crashes and needs a hard reset. Which requires the Reader to be re-activated, and do that too often and - Adobe Digital Editions locks you out. Which means you have to call Adobe to get ADE re-authorised, so far I've been waiting 2 days just to try and find out if my Reader is buggered.

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PRS-505 is great

Okay, I've got one so I'm biased because I got it at a super discount price for being a Sony staff member.

Even, the screen is really readable, the buttons are well placed for turning pages with either thumb, and it's a great travelling library.

The main drawbacks are the rubbish library software and the slow menu navigation. And the software doesn't work on Vista or Mac OSX.

The screen could be larger though it might make the whole machine too large.

There is a version with a keyboard for searching but it's not available in the UK.

£199 is good value given it comes with 100 classics, and there is a huge amount of stuff available copyright free online.

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Revisionism

Nice editing job on the first line there; we know what was written originally ;)

The key to selling these products really is to bundle real books with electronic copies. Say, buy a book at Waterstones online, pay a trivial amount over the cost of the paper edition, and get the electronic one as a download too.

That will get the bookish types feeling that they still have their 'library' and will wean them off paper slowly. I'd have one right now if I could buy titles that way.

As it is, the official route to new books costs almost as much for the paper-free edition and therefore, is offputting to me.

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Coat

Correction: "53 More Things To Do In Zero Gravity"

... and more controversial than Oolon Coluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters "Where God Went Wrong", "Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes" and "Who Is This God Person Anyway?"

Mine's the one with "Don't Panic" written on the back in large friendly letters.

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Sony Clie PEG-TH55

Another Sony product. Shove PalmFiction on it, change the font to something you like, and it's perfect. Transflective backlit screen - so good in sunlight as well as the dark, and incredible battery life.

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I hate to say it...

but it looks like the market is getting to the stage where Apple will be interested; I would expect them to make a good stab at filling in the gaps in functionality that the Sony has.

That said, the more e-readers out there the more material that will be made available; I used my PDA as a reader for the first time this year, enabling me to take the complete set of Sherlock Holmes books courtesy of Project Gutenburg (http://www.gutenberg.org).

Anyway, thumbs up to Sony for moving the market on.

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Stop

Better reader - Cybook

Bookeen's cybook has faster page turns (and you can turn off "optimal" mode to get it still faster, at the slight risk of ghosting) and can play basically any ebook/document format out there. (It does still have some issues with very large pdf files though.) Hundreds of thousands of current in-copyright books are available in Mobipocket format (with and without drm) including most/all of the Baen library. (Plus, Mobi allows for time-limited access.. which means there are actual free ebook lending libraries out there. Bizarre, huh?)

Although it gets rid of the 8 million controls on the Sony reader, it is not without flaws - its more fragile (plastic case vs aluminum). And there is an ongoing question about GPL compliance since the backend runs Linux. (Booreader is purely commercial though, so with nothing much to gain nobody is really pursuing it.)

Oh, and it only shows up as mass storage - if you really want to use the mobipocket manager app you can, but its not required for any of the features to work (including drm).

Price is about the same as the Sony, and books tend to be 50-75% the cost of the equivalent paperback.

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It's a lovely gadget

To the one complaining about the greyness; it's aluminium not plastic, and it feels really nicely put together too. Go and find one, I think you'll like it!

The display is the best part though. I played with one in my local Sony Centre the day before release, and I must say I was very very impressed. I too thought it was a sticker on a non-working model, until the salesman turned the page...

That flash between page turns needs to go though. Does anyone know whether you can overdrive an eInk display to change it faster? I think I'd accept a 50% cut in run time for half the page blank time.

It takes SD cards; and can read standard non-DRM book formats and MP3. I think Sony may finally be listening! Great product!

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October 2008

All we know is that Sony are making an announcement on 2nd October. Introducing a new machine a month after rolling out the 505 in the UK etc, is going to upset a lot of recent purchasers.

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Go

paper + data bundle concept

I second the notion that the printed product should come with a digital copy included. Remember all the DualDisc Audio DVD whatnot etc. BS that would include compressed & DRMd digital files of the DRMd to hell content that you could put on your portable player for your "convenience"? With books, that concept actually makes sense, as you cannot create your own digital rip according to your own preferences as easily as with say CDDA or DVD.

It is also dead-easy to pull off:

Laser-print a random key into the inside of every cover next to a web address where you get your free digital copy, chosen from a variety of formats. You can add further complications such as "book registration" so that further identical copies (or—heaven forbid—free updates on certain types of content) will only be sent to a registered customer email address along with a key to the given file. Or whatnot. Cheap & easy for everyone and also allowing for customers to pass on the paper copy if they wish. I am Bad Beaver and this is my concept, 9/13/08.

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