Open Question: LendInk and the Reality of eBook Lending

A major story happened last week in the self-publishing sphere and it looks like it slipped under the media's radar.

Even though the story is past, it is still so muddled that I am still working on finding out exactly what the hell happened. Today I decided to take a few minutes and post some background. Hopefully this should shake some trees and help me get to the bottom of this.

Lendink was one of a number sites that sprang up in 2009 and 2010 as a result of Amazon and B&N offering ebook lending. For those who don't know, both Amazon and B&N have a limited lending feature. If someone buys an ebook (for so) they have the option of making a one-time loan of that ebook to another Kindle/Nook owner (it's platform specific).

Before we go further, let me note that the many sites which helped connect a buyer with a borrower do nothing more than bookkeeping.  These sites (including Goodreads) don't handle the ebook which is being loaned. All they have is some personal info like the email addresses of the buyer and borrower.  These sites merely connect the 2 so that B&N or Amazon can perform the actual lending.

And again, please note that the loan can only go from one Kindle owner to another or from one Nook owner to another. This is controlled by the DRM maintained by B&N and Amazon.

So what happened last week?

I still don't know how this started, but last week a few (hundred) authors noticed that their ebooks were being lent via LendInk, or more accurately the ebooks were appearing on the LendInk site. This lead to a shitstorm of demands on Twitter and on Lendink's Facebook page that the ebooks be taken down. Many authors claimed that they never allowed Lendink to lend their ebooks and were understandably furious.

I'm going to raise a question about the claims later in the post, but the fact of the matter is they might have authorized the lending.

I've now read through both the KDP and Pubit contacts and if you submitted your ebooks via Amazon's KDP or via B&N's Pubit, chances are that you might have agreed to allow the ebook to be lent.

First, all ebooks submitted via Pubit can be lent by an owner.  The loan only happens once per copy and lasts 14 days.  Note that this covers all ebooks which enter the Nook Store via Pubit, and I know for a fact that you agreed to allow the ebook to be lent. This detail is spelled out in the Pubit TOC, which is quite clear on the issue:

Barnes & Noble shall have the right to institute a program whereby customers of any eBook Store can loan eBooks to others. A customer who has purchased an eBook may loan such eBook to one (1) lendee during a lending period. No more than one (1) copy of any one (1) eBook can be on loan from an eBook lendor at any given time. The lending period is for up to fourteen (14) days. By submitting your eBook for distribution using the Service you agree to allow your eBook to be distributed through Barnes & Noble's lending program pursuant to the terms listed in this Section IV.H. and as may be modified from time to time by Barnes & Noble, in its sole discretion.

That clause is especially important because the KDP contract is written so that Amazon can use the above clause as a reason to let one Kindle owner lend an ebook to another. Also, if you submitted an ebook via KDP and picked the 70% royalty option then you have agreed to allow your ebook to be lent. And lending is turned on by default so if you didn't uncheck a box when uploading an ebook to the Kindle Store then your ebook can be lent.

Amazon's terms are as strict as B&N's but the lending is still happening.

--

So that's what I know about the facts of the situation; let me cover the claims being made.

Many authors said last week that Lendink was handling their ebooks without their permission. Many other authors are claiming that Lendink was hosting a copy of their ebooks and lending it out.

Unfortunately, the site is now down (thanks to many bogus DMCA notices, no doubt), so I am unable to verify the claims. That is why I am posting this as an open question and inviting feedback from authors.

Do you have proof that they were hosting or in any way pirating ebooks?

I'd like to see the evidence, because right now I cannot tell if this was actual piracy or if LendInk was merely the victim of a witch hunt. I have seen some dozens of authors claim that LendInk was illegally sharing their ebooks but none posted proof. They didn't even make a claim as simple as "I got an ebook via LendInk". That by itself screams witch hunt.

So what really happened here?

via April K Hamilton (<- read her for an even longer explanation)

image by Loco Steve

42 thoughts on “Open Question: LendInk and the Reality of eBook Lending

  1. There was a book there that I knew wasn’t available to lend, so I joined, under a fake name, and asked to borrow it. First, it asked me to list a book I had to lend. So I did, and it picked the details up from Amazon. It didn’t ask me to upload anything, just to list the book. Then I asked to borrow the book I couldn’t have, and it told me I couldn’t have it.
    The only thing I saw that was iffy was that the site certificate was out of date.

      1. What wasn’t too clear on the site is which books were available to borrow (someone had already listed them and once you search you’d see the number of copies listed) and which ones weren’t available (no one had listed them). In the first case the “borrow” button would be colored and you’d send a request to the book owner. In the second case the “borrow” button would be grayed out and you’d get a message that the book wasn’t available and it would be added to your watchlist (that’s most likely what happened when they told you that you couldn’t have it, you probably didn’t pick an available book).
        People thought that because a book’s page had a “borrow” button then it would be available and that wasn’t the case.
        It’s also possible that the lending enabled/disabled status wasn’t always up-to-date on Lendink (but in any case, as the lending happened on BN or Amazon, then the actual lending status would be enforced).

        In any case, Lendle is the ebook-lending site I’d recommend. ebookfling and booklending.com are also popular. It’s too bad that people just jumped to conclusions without any proof and without understanding what the site did.

        1. Yes, I picked a book that I knew wasn’t available because then, if I could borrow it, the site would have been up to no good. It couldn’t have obtained the book from Amazon, so where was it getting it from? But it didn’t, it told me I couldn’t have the book. But it didn’t take away the credits I’d gained from putting up a title. If I’d picked an available title, it said it would have put me in touch with the lender.
          The witch hunt going on disturbed me. I’m a writer and I saw the kerfuffle on the lists. Very few people bothered to actually check that the site was doing anything wrong, except the publishers, who did check, and said that the site seemed legit, but that was lost in the screams of “pirate”!
          It seemed to be a kind of “dating agency,” but done in an amateurish way. There were some irregularities, like letting me list a book I didn’t have (I picked one at random) and the out of date certificate, but I’d satisfied myself that it didn’t seem to be doing anything wrong, and then I found a title at one of the big pirate sites, so I did myself some good and sent the pirate site a DMCA notice instead. There is no point sending a takedown notice to a site that doesn’t have any books to take down.
          I think it was at the very least amateurish, because the book I listed wasn’t actually a book I owned, but I still got the credits for listing it.

          1. Well, Amazon doesn’t really allow any other website to check whether you own the books that you list or not. In any case, at Lendink, once you listed a book you could use your 3 credits (you wouldn’t get more for listing more books).

          2. About two years ago, and no I am not fact checking, someone on Goodreads had a thread or a post that she was lending any book on her shelf, (i.e.: ebooks she owned) to anyone who requested them, and sending them through email. After I published on Kindle and knew a little more about the process, I asked Goodreads and Amazon how this worked. Was it possible to do this? Never got a reply. I never made much of it because shortly after I made my inquiries the site disappeared. At least I think it did. Every now and then I go on Goodreads and find a mother lode of links and comments in threads I never knew existed. It is kind of a hydra.
            Also, a well-known blogger who also does reviews posted the bit torrent site where you could download all three volumes of the Gray trilogy free because ‘the person’ thought it was so awful the person didn’t want you to pay for it. Now, some people believe in a certain philosophy of open-sourcing and feel bit torrent sites are the way to go, but I have a personal fear of them because I have heard they are heavily monitored by the “man”.
            I plan to look at all your links and see more related to your current story, but this whole internet thing is already way too big an entity to police.

  2. I used Lendle for a while but the limitation of once-per-title lending meant I quickly loaned out almost all my eligible titles. I don’t see why publishers bother to turn that function off; it’s so limited it’s virtually useless!

  3. It was not a bait and switch. Anyone who bothered to read the FAQ (before the site was taken down) could’ve known up front the site featured a mix of lendable and non-lendable books. It’s neither slimy NOR illegal for LendInk or sites like it to list books that members have lent in the past, but which are not currently available to borrow. Those affiliate links are how the site owners make enough money to keep paying their domain registration fees, monthly hosting fees, and to compensate themselves for the many hours they spend maintaining the sites and processing memberships. Also, the book(s) in question could be added back as lendable by any member at any time.

    And how happy am I as an author, when my book that’s no longer lendable on LendInk is still dislayed on the site with a buy link? Very, as most authors would be. It’s free advertising and exposure.

    I’m sorry to be so blunt, and this is not directed to anyone specifically in this comment thread, but I am sick and tired of this entitled attitude so many indie authors have, where they think every service that touches in any way on their books should be a totally charitable endeavor. LendInk was offering a valuable service to both readers AND authors, and there’s nothing wrong with its owner turning a profit on it.

  4. I have been very disappointed in what happened to LendInk. As far as I can see it got swallowed up in the furore surrounding another site that had gained attention the week before. The site the week before was definitely a piracy site and people got their knickers in a twist about it – and rightly so.

    The problem being that the atmosphere was therefore volatile and somebody somewhere found this site and jumped to conclusions and started spreading misinformation.

    Well these are the facts as found by me and my husband personally and no hearsay.
    1.All authors/publishers of Kindle books sold at the 70% author cut HAVE to agree to allow the buyer of that Kindle ebook to lend that book ONCE for a fortnig
    ht. Nook has a similar arrangement.
    2.The LendInk website lists Kindle/Nook ebooks and if a person has that Kindle/Nook ebook and can lend it once – they can register under that listing that they have it available. It is an invitation to the Kindle/Nook ebook owner to use their Kindle/Nook administered lend allowance by contacting somebody via the site – like a dating agency .
    3.If somebody wants to borrow – they can look a book up and see if there is lend available. If there isn’t there is an Amazon/Nook sale link – so they can buy it if they want to.
    4. The owner of the LendInk site is based in California.
    5.He is registered as LLC (as it said at the bottom of his website) and his domain details are not hidden and include his name and home address.
    6.According to his About me he has a responsible ‘main job’ with a large car manufacturers and is a War veteran who has worked in various responsible honourable jobs in his fairly long career.
    7.No money is involved in joining the site and on joining each member gets 3 tokens. They use a token up each time they borrow a book and get them back when the lend finishes. It is just like a library ticket. You cannot buy tokens. Three is your limit.

    The only way he could make money from this site is to sell books from the Amazon links or sell advertising if he gets enough traffic. The lending is all administered by Kindle and Nook – and is via their systems, exactly as if you lent your ebook to your neighbour or a relative.

    That is the information I found personally and not from hearing it from anyone else.

    I cannot understand why someone respectable would set up a registered LLC just to lend books for free by nefarious means. He has too much to lose. In any case this site has clearly explained how it works and it is completely legal and in my opinion a darn good idea.
    That is my conclusion after finding as much out as I could for myself from official sources.

  5. Well, here’s what I was able to find out. Expired certificates aside. Lendink and Amazon had a partnership that Amazon was terminating due to recent changes in California law in reguard to digitial file sharing. I could no doubt go on for hours about how all that came about, but in a nutshell, basically, people such as independent authors all worried about their vaunted intellectual property rights totally screwed themselves, because, let’s face it 99% of idiots. With Amazon, and no doubt Barnes & Noble soon after, withdrawing their products to be lent, it pretty much effectively cut the head off Lendink. So the site began the process of shutting itself down. And that was about three weeks ago. Three weeks before the 99% realized that Lendink even existed, had no clue how it worked, had no clue how lending through the major retailers they’re “published” through works, just, “Oh, my God, they’ve stolen our shit, EVERYBODY FILE DMCA NOTICES AGAINST THEM RIGHT NOW!” And you know I’ve just sat and laughed and laughed as they’ve stood around the cold corpse of Lendink, that has no mark on it, with their bloodless swords raised high screaming, “LOOK AT WHAT WE DID! WE SALYED THE BEASTIE! VICTORY!” ~Snickers~ Right, and E.L. James is a real writer too.

    1. “Lendink and Amazon had a partnership that Amazon was terminating due to recent changes in California law in reguard to digitial file sharing.”

      I’m not aware of any Calif. law involving digital files. What law is that?

      1. The only similar thing I read somewhere is that “Lendink used to be an Amazon affiliate and wasn’t anymore” because of the California related problems… but that isn’t true, is it? Weren’t all California affiliates reinstated last year?

  6. Good Morning,

    My name is Dale Porter and I am the owner of Lendink (or what’s left of it). I can say without hesitation that Lendink was not a pirate site, we did not store, transfer, lend or publish any ebooks, period! All we did was attempt to provide a means for people that enjoy their ebooks to meet other like minded people and share their “lend” enabled ebooks. The lending process was completely handled on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites.

    Lendink was operated solely by myself and operated the last couple of years with absolutely no income.

    There is a lot of misinformation on the internet claiming that we hosted ebooks illegally, that Amazon did not allow us to lend ebooks, etc. Let me try to address some of those here.

    Amazon did not allow us to lend ebooks. This is a 100% true statement and the fact of the matter is, Lendink did not nor did it ever attempt to lend ebooks. All we did was put person A in touch with person B and redirected A and B back to Amazon or Barnes and Nobles where the actual lending took place.

    Lendink was hosting ebooks illegally. This statement is 100% false. We never hosted any ebooks on our servers. We attempted to dispell this rumor on our FAQ page and for those that actually read the page, it usually cleared up the misunderstanding. For those that did not read the page, all I can assume is that is simply doesn’t matter at this point. No amount of explaination would have satisfied the vultures looming over head.

    The Lendink website is down, this is proof they were pirating ebooks. Really, this is proof that we were pirating ebooks? The fact of the matter is that our host company was so overwhelmed with hate mail and threats of lawsuits that they felt they had no choice but to suspend the site. These hatefull people did nothing but harass and threaten Lendink and our host company to the point that it just didn’t make sense to keep the site online.

    Amazon dropped Lendink as an Affiliate due to digital rights violations or new digital rights laws in California. This is 100% false. Lendink is a California based company and as such, was cut off from earning money from sales when Amazon and the State of California disagreed over the collection of State Sales Tax. Amazon cut off all of their California affiliates from earning money via their affiliate program. It was not just Lendink. This only prevented us from earning money via Amazon. It did not however stop use from matching people for book lending.

    I am simply a hard working guy that was trying to provide a legit service. Let me ask you all this, if I truley intended to use Lendink as a pirate site would I keep my contact information clearly associated with the site? Would I form an LLC and run the site as a business? Would I actually take the time to file for and receive a Federal Trademark for the site? These are not the actions of a person bent on stealing other persons intellectual property. The site had been negelected the past year or so and this was due to health issues related to my service connected injuries. Working a fulltime job to pay the bills and helath issues just took their toll on me and unfortunately the site suffered. My plan was to ride out the Amazon vs. California Sales Tax dispute and then pick up when I was able to make some income from the sale of books. Sadly, it appears that my American Dream has been left as road kill at the hands of misguided individuals.

    Dale

    1. Dear Dale,
      I’m deeply shocked about what happened with LendInk and I want to apologise if I had any part in it by retweeting tweets that LendInk might not be legitimate. I should most definitely not have passed on anything I had absolutely not checked myself. I then went and read your FAQ and tried swiftly to contact all those I’d tweeted to tell them that I’d got the wrong end of the stick. I am new to ebooks, I had no idea they could even be lent let alone what the mechanism might be, so I got a shock to see what appeared to be the ebook version of my new book, which has only just been published, apparently being given away. I am so sorry if I somehow played a part in what has ensued, and I do hope you will be able to restart our business. We authors need LendInk, we need what you do in order to spread the word about our books, and it distresses me deeply that we have somehow brought about this situation.

    2. This is in response to Dale.
      First off, my apologies. I did not complain to whoever, (i’m not that computer savy to know how to do that) but I did send you emails requesting that my books be removed from your site. For my part, I too served queen and country being a former police officer and retired forensic investigator. I had been on and off for the last few months due to health issues and when I got back online I was hit with a barrage of emails and notices regarding your site. As a former military person you know we are trained to act and react instantly. An outdated version of ‘shoot first ask questions later’ but that’s the long and the short of it. I have included my real name here so you will know that I am not trying to hide from my own actions.
      I think what a lot of people are not understanding is that indie authors usually have gone years trying to break into the traditional publishing route with only rejection letters coming back. being able to publish on amazon and other sites would be equal to a God send. There is a strong emotional attachment to their books as I have with mine, hence the knee-jerk reaction of so many.
      I realize that this is little compensation for the hard and long hours you must have put into the site but that’s pretty much the best I can do for you.
      One thing I would like to ask, when I sent in the email, why no response? Had I received any sort of explanation or a link to your FAQ section, I can pretty much say I would have been more than satisfied and jumped on your wagon, flags waiving.
      The problem with most of us, is, we’re newbies to this. We put our books out there with little help, no clear direction and mostly, on a wing and a prayer so when we get piled on with emails and notices about the ‘bad site’ well, its not a pleasant feeling.
      My hopes for you are that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start another site. If you do, I’ll be in line to sing your praises to whoever listens to me. (again, not many, I think I’ve given away more books than sold but that’s the best I can do)
      This is a learning process for all of us and I’m sad and embarrassed that I didnt pause long enough to thoroughly look into it. Guess its a good thing I retired. Not the best trait for an Investigator.
      Again, my sincerest apologies.
      Richard

    3. Thanks, Digital Reader, for this discussion, and thanks, Mr. Porter, for taking the time to respond.

      Ebooks, once purchased from a site like Amazon, can indeed be lent from one owner of an ereader device to another.

      The second device owner cannot keep the chain going by lending the borrowed ebook file to a third person. That would-be second (and all subsequent) transaction(s) would indeed constitute piracy and copyright infringement.

      Amazon’s involvement ceases after the initial sale to the first kindle owner is completed.

      I arrived somewhat late to the discussion last week. Two different book bloggers brought Lendink to my attention while I was at the Blogher conference. I brought up your website on my phone and searched for my title, but took no other action at that time. By the time I got back to an actual computer many hours later, I couldn’t access the website or its FAQ page. I did send a message through Facebook, asking my title be removed from this website I could not see, reasoning better safe than sorry. Quick judgment call, made without full info since the page – including the About and FAQ – was inaccessible. I thought the problem was my computer; I didn’t realize your site was already down.

      BUT… At no point did I harass or threaten anyone, or encourage anyone else to take any action with regards to Lendink. I can’t imagine why anyone interested in seeing their work removed from a site would need to send anything but professional communications. Let alone harass or threaten the site’s host or owner. Jeesh.

      Nor do I understand the name calling flowing in the other direction, but I guess that’s the nature of the net.

      I confess I didn’t check back into this discussion until today. As Mr. Porter noted above, life gets in the way.

      So here’s my question: Is there a way to put the FAQ back up before you re-launch your site?

      I think that would be most helpful.

      And on a more personal note to Mr. Porter, I’ve learned that nearly all publicity is good publicity. I doubt your dream is road kill. Indeed I bet this kerfuffle will do great things for you once you re-launch your site.

  7. Don’t sweat it Dale. The internet is going to fix this one for you. As for the Authors… learn how shit works before you speak next time. The results of this are going to disastrous for you folks…. And stop making stuff up while you are at it.

    Nigel

  8. If you happen to have a list of all the writers/publishers that sent you DMCA takedowns, uninformed twitters and emails, could you please post it somewhere. It’d be great to know which authors/publishers to avoid purchasing from in the future.

    1. I’m with Tunnen on this one–it would be nice to know who NOT to support in the future.

      Best of luck to you, Dale!

      -Rueben

    2. i know that ALL DMCA notices are signed and sent “under penalty of perjury”.

      Each of those that sent fraudulent DMCA takedown notices have opened themselves for a lawsuit… Dale might even get some nice money out of this (fraudulent notices and for damages), either through the courts or from settlements.

      1. It also says that they affirm, to the best of their knowledge… Considering they are idiots who failed the most basic of research, well, the limits of their knowledge is a pretty short stick.

      2. That’d be awesome for Dale if it worked but I DO agree those author’s names should be posted and boycotted. Anybody who acts like that much of a crazed greedy hateful person is someone I reeallly dont want to be supporting. Seriously….if buying something and letting someone borrow it or giving it away was illegal pretty much everybody would be in prison. Egad! Someone loved your book soo much they wanted to share it and get people interested? By all means go forth and violently attack with much frothing of the mouth….yeah….you totally deserve to be boycotted. Shame on you authors. Shame on you.

  9. While it’s a bit late to do much good, at least Tania Hershman is ‘fessing up and has tried to undo what she’d done. But, girl, you won’t have much of a career earnings if you don’t read fine print, legalese, and contracts better than that. See the KDP Terms & Conditions, 5.2.2: “Kindle Book Lending Program.” It ain’t just Dale who’s put at risk with this kind of nonchalance.

  10. I’m going to “fess” up too, for what it’s worth. Although I never sent a DMCA to Lendink, I did go on their FB page and ask that my books be taken down and for that I am very sorry. I also got caught up in the “witch hunt” after reading about it from other authors who were concerned. I don’t excuse what I did, I was just as misguided as the rest and I apologize to Dale Porter for my part in the take down of his site. I’m sure my involvement will affect my sales, and if it does, then so be it. I’ll pay the price.

  11. Hi. I’m one of the people who posted a rather blunt note on LendInk’s FB page. I did not send a notice to LendInk’s host (as some people accuse), but did send a letter to Dale via the corrections e-mail listed in the FAQ and asked that my books be removed. Yes, I was ticked off.

    Here’s why. I specifically opted *out* of lending programs on B&N and Amazon. That’s right, I unchecked the little box. I am now working with them to discover why my books are available for loan when I asked not to have it happen. I was especially disturbed when I received a letter from Amazon saying that LendInk was not authorized to act as their agent. I appreciate Dale’s additional information above.

    I totally get that LendInk was a set-up for readers and thus (according to some readers) does not owe authors any explanations. I also get that some of the users are angry — angry enough to organize a vendetta campaign against me and other authors. Some of us did what Dale’s site asked us to do in sending a correction letter (as I said, that’s what I did). Should I have been angry on Facebook? No. And honestly, with this additional information, I’m not angry at Dale either. I’m angry at Amazon and B&N for not honoring what I agreed to on *their* end.

    I understand that many of you are too mad to give a damn about that. I’m sorry.

    1. Sharon,

      I think you are still missing a basic understanding of how the site worked. If your books are truly not part of any lending program, then the book information would appear but only with a link to buy the book. No one violated your agreement – they just tried to help you sell your book.

      It is amazing some of these authors are able to string sentences together enough to have a book. Oh, probably explains the whole ‘indie’ part.

  12. Sharon E. Cathcart: you are part of our list of name and shame authors, I would remove you, but I feel your attitude to lending shows your not really serious about being a successful writer.

    any author I have come across who was a success has been a fan of lending physical books or giving them away, because, as readers themselves, they know what lending leads to(more sales).

    since you do not want your works lent, it would be wrong for somebody to buy your works even in physical form and then lend or give them away…..as such, your on the list of authors to avoid.

    im sorry bn/amazon didnt block your files from being lend enabled….as i think that would have been best from the start, May I also suggest you update your author’s pages on whatever sites may have them to include your dislike for lending, so that potential buyers will know that you want each person who reads your works to buy their own copies.

    1. Hello, and thank you. I would like to have the opportunity to do two things. First, I want to share the text of my apology to Mr. Porter (as well as the public apology I have made), and the opportunity to explain why I did not want my books loaned. It was *not* about lost sales. The most important thing is that I was in error as regards LendInk and I am well deserving of any “lumps” that I take as a result.

      This blog post contains the public apology and a long discussion, including the reason I didn’t enable lending (more on that in a moment). This blog post contains the text of my apology to Mr. Porter, which is also in the comments on the first one. This one contains the call to action to every author who, like me, was wrong about LendInk and asking that they donate to the FundRazr.

      So, the reason I didn’t enable lending, as I stated, has nothing to do with lost sales. I *give* my eBooks away regularly. During the month of July, every single title was available free of charge, across *all* formats, including PDFs. Why? Because not everyone has an eReader, a Smartphone, or a modern computer that can handle an eReader app. I don’t like that eBooks can be set up to disappear after a certain amount of time, to be frank. If someone doesn’t have the chance to get to a book, or it takes them longer than 14 days to finish it, it doesn’t seem fair. I would rather have people have the book “for keeps” (as we used to say on the playground).

      I know no one has to believe me, or accept my overtures. I know people are angry. I also know I was wrong.

  13. I am a bit surprised at so many authors being against lending. Libraries do it already, and people lend books to thier friends. But here’s the thing I often will end up buying the book at some point. Or I might buy some of your other books. Your book only gets lent once by the user. Its not like they are lending one copy 100 times. You are cutting yourself out of potiential sales. If you are new author its a excellent way to get exposure, this will lead to sales.

    Even authors that have been published by traditonal publishers, I have often first discovered them by borrowing a book first. If I like the author I go on to buy more of their books. Traditional publishers are having similar attitudes towards libraries, and it will hurt thier sales.

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