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Hearts and Bones: On Rereading, the Viscerality Thereof

So I finally broke down and ordered an actual physical copy of Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar a couple of weeks ago. Because I couldn't go any longer without having it in my house, in my hands. Yes, yes, I know I already do have it in ebook form on my Nook, and that's all fine and dandy. But I've been itching to reread it something fierce lately. And for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to reread the ebook. Why? Well, honestly, I was stumped for awhile. I'm a serial rereader, for one thing. Rereading is extremely important to me. I can finish a book for the first time and know instantly if it's going to be one I'm going to want to experience again or not. And if it is, I must own a physical copy. It has to sit on my shelves, so I that I can see it when I pass through the room and reach out and touch the spine to reassure myself of its presence if need be. When it's just one of many files on my ereader, I can't do any of those things. I simply get no thrill from waking my ereader up, tapping over to the file, and gazing at the words on the screen. To say nothing of the way I miss an actual spine and binding.
Good . . .
. . . Better

I realize this is beginning to sound a bit rabid, a bit unhinged. Certainly to readers who don't connect viscerally with a physical book. And most definitely to non-rereaders. But it's the truth. And I confess I'm curious. Do any of you out there know what I mean? Because I had the most unexpected and moving experience this past week and I have to talk about it with someone. My copy of Raw Blue arrived all the way from New Zealand (thanks Fishpond--you were there when I needed you) the other day, and I got the usual tingle from holding it in my hands and running a finger over the glossy cover. For some reason, I thought it would be matte. This small, glossy surprise was part of the pleasure. I started it that night. Now, this is a book I freaking loved when I first read it almost exactly a year ago. I knew it would hold up well on rereading, but I wondered (as I always do) what the experience would be like, if new things would jump out at me, and if so, what they would be. I hoped I would love Carly and Ryan as much as I did the first time.

Guys, I was wholly unprepared for this read. Even now, I'm having a hard time finding the words for how hard this book hit me the second time around. My stomach was jumpy with every turn of the page. Every interaction hit me in the gut, every wave Carly paddled through caused my breathing to hitch, my heart to squeeze with sympathy and admiration for her. It was something else entirely from the first go-round on my Nook. Where the first read was a "good time," this one was a visceral and comprehensive experience. You know the usual trouble you have concentrating while going about daily tasks when you're in the middle of a great read? This was that and then some, because I felt not only emotionally involved, but physically as well. What's interesting is when I go back and read my review, none of that is there. It's just the bones. The characters, their history, the way things went down. It didn't make a physical impression on me. I just loved the words. Having mused over it now for a few days, I feel confident chalking this unexpected second response up to having the book itself. To the fact that I was holding the story in my hands. I could grip it and pause, turn the page back and wait, breathing deeply, until I was ready to move on. This time I had the heart of it, pumping all its rage and hope and longing into me through our connection at my fingertips. I finished it last night, and I had trouble falling asleep, I was so wired. It was an incomparable experience, one that I treasure. And I'll tell you one thing--I'd pay double the cover price + international shipping to have it again. In a heartbeat.

Comments

  1. You know, I think I know what you're talking about. I am an avid ereader. I love reading digitally because it's much more comfortable for me and it's much more convenient because my house is super small and I simply don't have space for loads of bookshelves.

    However, when I read a special book--and Raw Blue is one of them--I have to procure a hard copy as well (though, oddly, even though it's one of my favorites I don't actually own a hard copy--I must remedy this). I think of it like my "permanent collection," the books I'd have in case of an apocalypse where we had no electricity and my Kindle couldn't charge. (Because, of course, my reading habit would continue in this scenario.)

    And, while I tend to not re-read that hard copies (I prefer the comfort of the digital), I will thumb through the paper copies and mull over my favorite passages at random and get that tingly, zingy exhilaration just knowing that those words are living (because I think of them as alive somehow--I'm such a dork) in my house with me. Jellicoe Road is one of my favorites for this.

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    1. Sarah, yes. I love my ereader so much. I would have loved to have had it when I was living in a basement with all my actual books in storage. I know you love RAW BLUE, too. How could you not? I really did hold off on buying my copy a long time. But eventually you have to stop living like an animal, you know? ;)

      JELLICOE is spectacular.

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  2. Yes, I do! I've been chomping at the bit to buy physical copies of Patrick Rothfuss' book "The Wise Man's Fear." It's only $7.99. I would enjoy seeing it on my shelves every day. But on the other hand, I already spent money buying the ebook, which I've read several times. I tell myself it's crazy to buy a book I already have in a more convenient format (that sucker is massive), when I could use that $7.99 to buy a book I haven't read yet, or don't own in any format yet.

    As you can see, I've overanalyzed it. It's not just with this one book that I've had this debate, but with several books that I bought in ebook format and fell in love with. My reading is about 50% new stuff and 50% rereads, so I relate to you there.

    Haven't read Raw Blue, so I'll give it a whirl!

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    1. Oh, man. That reminds me I have GOT to get on reading that series. I own the first one, but haven't dug in yet. I tell myself the same thing about buying an ebook and the physical copy. But sometimes myself doesn't listen . . .

      Definitely give RAW BLUE a whirl!

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  3. I hear you exactly. I have this exact feeling... with a lot of books. Many of them I've collected already - but I moved to DC over two years ago, and not all of my books made the journey with me. I still wander over to my current, overloaded bookcase sometimes and search for a title I KNOW I own, but then realize I don't have it 'here.' It's at my parents' house in one of the 14 boxes.

    And you feel a loss, when you can't hold it in your hands. As I said, I know exactly what you mean. I've also had this feeling with hardcovers & paperbacks. I got used to seeing it one way, with certain words on certain pages, and a different edition just doesn't FEEL right. Weird? A little. But the physical book is a strange creature, and so am I, reading it.

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    1. Cecelia, oh, I've been separated from my mother load as well. Not a comfortable feeling.

      Good point re: hardcovers and paperbacks. I totally have my favorites by book. Very occasionally I will own both, but I still have my favorite for reading.

      Love your last line, btw. Perfection.

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  4. I love the passion in this post. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. There are a very select few reads that I feel so emotionally attached to: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Blood Promise by Richelle Mead, and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready being some off the top of my head. I wish so badly that I wasn't prone to convince myself I don't have time to reread these beloved books because of ALL the new ones out there and staring at me from my shelf. ANd if I can get the same feeling I got the first time, but DEEPER. Well what the heck am I waiting for?

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    1. Jen, so happy you read it as passion and not crazy! lol. Yay for INK EXCHANGE. That book. It wrecked me. And solidified my love for Leslie/Irial/Niall. It's real and it is never going away.

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  5. I know exactly what you mean. I only use my kindle for NetGalley and the rare occasion a book is going a lot cheaper on it. Mostly I find the prices are about the same and I don't see why I'd pay the same for a download as for an actual physical copy.

    I dislike reading on a kindle. It's ok but reading a book is so much more than just reading some words. It's the feel of the book, the smell of the paper, the well worn pages on your favourite books. Flicking through to your favourite scene or quote. I love book covers. I love seeing my books on my bookshelf it's my favourite part of my room. I just don't understand people who prefer reading on an e-reader. It's so detached and clinical. If I enjoy a book on my kindle than I buy it. I'm not interested in loosing myself in a book I love on the kindle.

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    1. Amy, essentially I do the same thing. You are so right. The ereader reduces the book to the words. The rest of the full reading experience is lost (or bypassed). It's nearly impossible to really lose yourself digitally, isn't it?

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  6. Sheesh, maybe I should read this one. ;)

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    1. Anonymous6:21 PM

      You should!!! :-)

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  7. Wow. So I'm with Sarah on ebooks - I love them, though I admit it is partly (mostly?) a space constraint on my part.

    Two things spring to mind: (a) Totally agree it is a different experience reading a paper v. ebook, though I'm not sure the difference I experienced was equivalent to yours (then again, there are very very few books that I've loved enough to get a paper copy - mainly to loan out - and I'm not a massive re-reader) and (b) I've had the experience (a couple of times this year *grin*!) of being completely engrossed in an ebook to the point I kept on thinking about the world and the characters almost constantly throughout the day.

    So ummm... there were probably more than two points there. And I'm not entirely sure what they were ;-)

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    1. Li, absolutely. They are a wonder. And I'm so glad I have access to both. An embarrassment of riches, really.

      I'm so glad to hear you lose yourself in ebooks! I love that feeling and will keep you all posted if it happens to me via ebook.

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  8. Yes! I am a huge re-reader. I also know the moment I finish (usually before I finish) if I will be re-reading it. And I have to have a real copy to do it. I tried book marking tons of favorite spots with my kindle version of The Scorpio Races so I could go back but it's just not the same. just holding the physical book in my hand makes me so happy.

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    1. Misti, comrade! I love the bookmark feature as well. But it just isn't the same, like you said. It's instant and it's there. But I don't connect with it, and the imprint the location and page make on my memory with a physical copy is lacking with the ebook. I hate that.

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  9. I know EXACTLY what you mean! I still don't own an e-reader (and never will, as long as I have anything to say about it), but I did break down and get the "Kindle for PC" installed on my computer so I could read a few books that were only available as e-books. One of them (Life on the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux) was so good that it made me physically anxious not to be able to hold it in my hands, or look at it sitting on my shelf and know that I owned it. I was so relieved when it finally came out in paperback a few months later!

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    1. Emily, yeah, it can be hard for real readers to get by without them now. There are so many really worthwhile reads that are only in ebook format. But I do hate the idea of not being able to obtain a physical copy. *shudder*

      I hadn't heard of LIFE ON THE EDGE. Will have to investigate.

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  10. It reminds me of that classic monkey baby experiment--where the cold metal robot monkey that gave milk was fine for that, but when the baby was scared and wanted love, it went to the warm furry one! I think that my own primate intincts to hold on tight to what I love will never be satisfied by an e reader...especially when each individual book as a physical object is so distinct from every other one.

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    1. Charlotte, very well put. It's a literary primate instinct for sure! I love that each book is different. Even similar copies of the same book. Different smell, different wear to the pages, different history. *sigh*

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  11. I almost never reread on ebooks -- for one, ebooks make the art of flipping practically impossible -- I can't skip around to my favorite parts. This is even annoying sometimes on first reads, when I find I want to flip back to reference an earlier section and I can't find it.

    I've found recently that I buy books I'm really excited about in paper, but the downside of that is I'm more likely to read when I can steal some time on my phone.

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    1. Not just me then. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, even though I was dying to be with those characters again. It was crazy! And then so utterly satisfying rereading the physical book that my feelings on the matter were cemented, for better or worse.

      The stealing snippets of time issue is one I deal with as well. Constantly.

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  12. Oh yes! I was nodding along as I read this post, I love the ease of ebooks but having a proper copy of favourites is so important to me and I am so glad you loved Raw Blue :)

    Mands xox

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    1. A proper copy. YES.

      Oh, Mands, I love it so. much.

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  13. AWESOME post, Angie. And I know exactly what you mean, both about eReading and rereading. I love rereading and usually know if a book is going to one I want to revisit (with some notable exceptions, which drive me crazy), and when I reread I usually get a lot more out of the book than the first time around. The first read is just bare bones of character and plot, but in the second read I tend to get REALLY wrapped up in it.

    As for physical copies, I get very attached to the specific physical copy of the book I read. I don't know why. But if I know I'll want to reread an ebook, I buy the physical copy. I need that connection to something solid, if that makes sense.

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    1. Thanks, Tasha! Had to laugh over the notable exceptions lament. I have those as well. More's the pity. I'm always attempting to explain the notion of getting more out of it the second time around to non-rereaders. They're always so skeptical.

      I used to reread a couple of my favorite series every year like clockwork. And I would refer to certain rereads fondly. Lol.

      That connection to something solid makes perfect sense to me. It also explains why I've mourned the loss of my copy. I can buy a new one. But it won't be the same.

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  14. One of my problems is that I read almost everything as a library book. Sometimes it kills me to give it back. I had to return The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen today. I literally kissed the book goodbye. I just need to go to B&N and buy it. I could read it a dozen times I think.

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    1. Alison, oh. I've had difficulty returning library books as well. Occasionally, I've had to go buy my own copy before I could bring myself to take the library one back.

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  15. Love how passionate you are in this post, Angie! More so because you're talking about a title that I also loved. You've made me want to reread Raw Blue but my copy is currently with a friend (need to share the love, especially since it's not locally available). I agree that rereading can be surprising sometimes - I remember not loving The Thief when I first read it. Can you imagine me not loving anything Megan Whalen Turner has written? But then it grew on me as a reread.

    Like you, I also want to get physical copies of books I fall in love with. The most recent example that I can think of is EWein's Code Name Verity - I read a galley of that but still couldn't wait for Book Depository to deliver my UK edition. It's comforting to have actual copies of books that you love on your bookshelf.

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    1. Yeah, hard not to be passionate about a book as good as RAW BLUE. But wow, even I couldn't believe how well it lived up to my memory of it.

      THE THIEF is spectacular the second time around! That's an experience not to be missed.

      I have a galley of CODE NAME VERITY. Need to get to it.

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    2. Yes to Code Name Verity! Would love to know what you think of it.

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  16. My Kobo and I get along really well -- but it's not a permanent relationship and I know it. It's an electronic gadget that will, eventually, fizzle out on me. Just the other day it crashed as I was in the middle of something. I have read a number of books I've really enjoyed on it, but it occurs to me that I haven't gone and bought a hard copy of anything I've read on the e-reader. (Interestingly, I have done the verso -- bought an e-copy of a library book I loved, just because it was handier to get it and download it right away than it was to wait for the hardcover to come.) I'm going to try it now, because you make it sound so appealing!

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    1. kiirstin, lol. I like the way you view your relationship. Occasionally, I have balked a bit at purchasing a hardcopy after already buying the ebook. Especially if I did something like pay full price for the ebook. But I never regret it when I do get the hard copy. Nope. Not once.

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  17. I didn't start to understand this until fairly recently. I've found myself compelled to reread certain parts or scenes, or chapters of books I love over and over, and you just can't do that with a digital copy. I haven't really bought physical books for years, but in the past few months, I've been filling up my shelves again with favorites for this reason. When I borrow a book from the library, and keep renewing it just to reread, I know I must own it! Don't worry, you're not crazy. =)

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    1. Heidi, it's the flipping back that kills ya. And you don't realize how much a part of the whole experience it is until you can't do it properly.

      That is a good sign, btw. Serial renewing. Must remember that.

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  18. Anonymous4:29 PM

    I know...me too, I buy the ebook when I'm in need of an instant fix or I don't want to shell out for the hard cover price, but if it turns out that I love the book, I almost always end up buying the actual book. I either wait for the paperback or sometimes end up buying the hard cover anyway. Like you, I often end up rereading the "hold it in my hand" copy. And I find that if I cared about a book the first time around, I will grow to love it on reread. There's something about knowing where the story is going, you don't have to be so anxious and fearful for your dear friends. You learn so much more because you're not racing through to find out how everything turns out. Recently did this with "Finikin of the Rock" to get ready for Froi and ended up in love after being just in like with my first (ebook) reading

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    1. Anon, you too? Oh good. eBooks really are all about the instant fix for me as well. And it's a heady rush to be sure. *fans self*

      I've done the waiting for the paperback thing as well. Kind of justifies it a bit, budget-wise, doesn't it?

      You bring up FINNIKIN and that makes me wonder. That book and I did not get on. I wonder about FROI from time to time. Perhaps I should be more openminded.

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  19. Yes. Yes. Triple yes. I've been thinking about this too, wanting to share my feelings. And you managed to just capture it perfectly. I have a Kindle. I read a lot of books on my Kindle. But I almost always end up getting a paper copy eventually, if it's a book I like. There IS something to the visceral experience. The turning of the pages. The way the paragraphs are laid out. The binding. The cut of the paper. The cover. The smell. The spine. All of that is missing from the ebook experience.

    That said, I have been thoroughly engrossed in a ebook before. The experience is best when the book has clearly been carefully formatted as an ebook. It's extremely distracting and disappointing when the publisher clearly just used some format of the book they had on hand and sent it on to Amazon without any thought.

    Really, I foresee me continuing on in the same pattern. Buying ebooks when I need instant gratification or there is a good deal. But buying hard copies most of the time, especially when the hard copy is approximately the same price as the ebook! (But that's a whole 'nother rant.)

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    1. Jess, *highfive* all of those things are such integral parts of the reading experience.

      But I am encouraged to hear that you've been that engrossed in an ebook before as well. The ARC formats (or lack thereof) really do detract. The nicely prepared ones can be lovely.

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  20. I love this post! I have to have a physical copy of books I love. I love seeing them on my bookcase, like little pieces of art, it just makes me happy to be surrounded by them. I often pick a favourite up and just re-read a small section or even a random page.

    I must get my hands on Raw Blue!

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    1. Alexa, such an apt comparison to pieces of art and surrounding yourself with them. That is how it feels to me as well.

      RUN don't walk to RAW BLUE. You will be swept away.

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  21. I know I'm late to the party on this discussion. But I found I still needed to comment. :)

    I'm torn on this issue. I know I've mentioned before my deep and abiding love for my kindle. It may be partly a familial thing--my brother in law helped to develop them, and so I've owned one from the beginning. But I remember telling him there was absolutely no way that I could curl up with a *device* and lose myself in a story as I could with a physical book. Then I got my kindle, and the world opened up in a whole new way.

    All the times I tried to read while blow-drying my hair (which involved a pretty precarious arrangement of weighted objects and very frequent pauses in the drying), or read while eating, or on a windy day at the park with kids...or while nursing (!) Kindle was a revelation and a god-send. I could travel anywhere, without the worry of leaving my beloved books--or trying to pick exactly which ones I'd want with me. I could get new ones without waiting. In the middle of the night. Or while on the treadmill. Or while nursing. (spent a lot of time doing that).

    So I do truly love my kindle. And have lost myself time and again in the story, because the ease of holding it drives all physical concerns away. No shifting position because my hand is tired. No trying to hold up the heavy book on my chest while lying down--or getting clocked by said book in the face when I fall asleep. :)

    And yet, we moved last year, and darn it all if I absolutely could not part with my physical books. Even those that reside in my digital library. Even though my preference is to re-read on kindle (I am getting very, very anxious about a certain Mr. Kay's books that are not yet kindle-iced and I want very badly to reread them--but not in big fat paperback form. Even though said books are well-worn, well-loved, and never to be gotten rid of). I still love to see my books on my shelves. I still love to browse bookstores and stroke covers. But for me, reading is almost exclusively digital now.

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    1. Jolie, I'm glad you added your thoughts. It's great to hear from a confirmed ebook fan. I think I'm in transition a bit, though I do feel a sense of relief settle over me when I pick up a physical copy after reading a slew of digitals. I may be incorrigible . . .

      That's so awesome you've had a kindle from early days! I love watching the evolution of the devices themselves. They just get better and better.

      The travel thing is huge. I think I've been in a travel lull and so haven't latched onto that as much as I would have if they'd been around when we were gallivanting about a bit more. Here's to more opportunities in the future to really appreciate that.

      It makes me happy to read your thoughts as they remind me true readers have room in their hearts for all the books, no matter the format.

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  22. I absolutely understand this. I wanted to read Raw Blue right away, so I downloaded it to my nook, and I loved every second of it. But I've pre-ordered the UK version from Book Depository and I'm pretty sure at some point I will break down and buy the Australian version as well. Because when it's a book I really love, I really DO want it in book form.

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    1. Trish, ahh! RAW BLUE is such a perfect example. I keep eyeing that UK copy shiftily. It's that good a book. My library could stand to own two hard copies. And believe you me, I won't even bat an eye purchasing a US copy when it FINALLY comes out here. :)

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  23. I know exactly what you mean! I have a kindle, and I love it to death, but anytime I read something on there that I absolutely love, I head over to Amazon or eBay so that I can buy a physical copy of it. I admit, sometimes I'll just take the books off of my bookshelf that way I can look at them while putting them all back, one by one. I may be a bit like Gollum in that, to me, my favorite books are 'my precious.' They just look, feel, and smell oh so nice!

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    1. Truly? I'm so pleased to hear it's not just me. I do the same thing taking them off the shelf and fondling them. *sigh* Good times.

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