Designing research together: it’s complicated

Stella's 'Ob-log'

In my last post, I went into some detail about Oblong’s funding, the geographical community where we work, and how our work is affected by government policies.  This week I’m going to focus on the process of designing my research project with Oblong.  I’ll write briefly about the practicalities, as well as a term I discovered in academic articles:  positionality.

Positionality, in my understanding, means:

  • a researcher’s relationship to the people they will encounter in the process of doing research; and
  • the standpoint the researcher uses to interpret and write about what she finds out.

Talking about positionality when you do research indicates that you think these relationships and standpoints make a difference – to how the research is designed, and the conclusions you will eventually come to.  I do think these relationships and standpoints make a difference – in my research with Oblong, and in any research.  If you…

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‘Absolutely the best shopping venue’ – Leeds Kirkgate Market

GoodforLeeds saw Sandra Reston tweeting about the incredible value of her regular shop at Leeds Kirkgate Market, one of the largest indoor markets in Europe and a fixture in Leeds’ retail scene since 1857, and asked her to tell us more.

Every Saturday we go to Leeds Market to do our weekly shopping.  We are renowned for entertaining and serving good food on a regular basis – no, we are not a restaurant! We are two people who enjoy cooking and eating on a daily basis. We eat amazingly well and are very particular about what we cook, eat and serve.

This week’s choice for meat was roast beef rib from Mr Callard in the meat section which was delicious, plus braising steak for the freezer. Admittedly, not our usual expense but on a cold grey wet weekend there was a need for roast beef.

On the vegetable side: 10 small peppers for 1 pound, huge bag of tomatoes for 1 pound, cauliflower 60p, parsnips by the bag for 50p, spinach for 50p, 2 kilos of potatoes for 1 pound.  Plus, chestnuts, figs, and cooking and eating apples.

Our total shopping for fruit and vegetables and salad products for the whole week was £7.60. Comparison to supermarket shopping? Well, supermarkets lack freshness, for instance, and all the apples are tastelessly the same size.  As to cost, try it – you will spend at least four times the amount we spend at the market.

Even with parking we save money, every single week, and eat fabulously.

I admit it isn’t on your doorstep or a plastic, clinical shopping experience. No!  It’s a vibrant atmosphere with bargains galore for everyone.  Stallholders are friendly and helpful and it’s a competitive environment for prices.  Go early or go late when there are massive bargains i.e. 10 sirloin steaks for £10 or virtually given away chickens.

The outside section for fruit and vegetables has become a tourist attraction for our visiting friends and they all absolutely love it. Even our friends from London and Leyburn go back with freezer bags full of meat, chickens and fish.

Leeds Market has the best fish stalls ever with a stunning range of fish all totally fresh – no plastic wrappings here.  For our visitors next week I have a new recipe: Cod with peas and clams and we will be homing in on the fish stalls.

Sandra Reston is known for being candid, loving books and words, candles burning entertaining and creating atmosphere. Follow her on twitter @sandrareston.

Kirgate Market

Vicar Lane

Leeds

LS2 7HY

tel:       0113 378 1950

email:  markets@leeds.gov.uk

twitter:@leedsmarkets

Web:    http://www.leedsmarkets.co.uk/

Opening times

Monday – Saturday Doors open from 8am until 5.30pm (Shop & Drop until 6pm)


Cool runnings with parkrun Leeds

Running clubs can be intimidating places, full of people with no body fat engaged in a superfitness contest. But Ian Rosser tells goodforleeds about a volunteer-led event which genuinely welcomes and encourages all comers.

It’s Christmas Day. The clock strikes 9am as snow drifts gently to the ground.

Most residents of Leeds are either still snuggled up in bed or unwrapping the presents that Santa left.

So why am I standing, freezing cold in shorts and a t-shirt, with 55 others in Hyde Park? It’s simple: I have the parkrun bug, and so do they.

Every Saturday morning (barring injuries or family commitments) I line up with hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers in Woodhouse Moor, just behind the University of Leeds, to take part in the 5km event.

We are counted down from three – and another parkrun is underway. The really fast lads and lasses bomb along the downhill path at the start, followed by those not quite so fast.

Nationally, there are dozens and dozens of parkruns. There are four in Leeds alone: Woodhouse Moor, Roundhay, Beeston and Temple Newsam.

Founded in London nine years ago, parkrun has since spread around the globe, linking Leeds up with countries including Denmark, Australia, Poland, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA.

On one Saturday in November, more than 50,000 runners completed a parkrun, overseen by a combined 3,675 volunteers.

finishIn my six years of doing parkruns, I have watched in awe as Olympic and World Championship athletes Alistair Brownlee and Susan Partridge raced away from the field. I have seen top club runners going “eyeballs out” to set a new personal best. I have also seen mums and dads push those three-wheeled prams around the undulating course. One chap always finished quickly having juggled all the way around.

My highest admiration, though, have been for those who spend the longest time getting around. They aren’t elite athletes, but they are the gutsiest people on the course.

I I first did parkrun in 2008, although the Woodhouse event started a year earlier.  There were 80 of us, and the vast majority were already signed up with running clubs.

Today, about 400 runners take part. The majority are not with clubs. I assume they take part for the same reasons I do – it’s fine to run on your own, but it’s great to run with other people, whatever their age or ability.

There’s a genuine sense of camaraderie amongst those present: applause for juniors doing their 10th run; recognition for adults on their 50th, 100thor even 250th run; the loudest applause for those about to attempt their first-ever parkrun.

Another big pulling point about the event is that it’s free. Staffed entirely by volunteers, parkruns rely solely on the goodwill of kind-hearted souls in yellow reflective jackets to set up the start and finish, marshall the course and time the results. It’s as well-run as any of the dozens of paid-for races that I have taken part in over the years.

Being part of parkrun means you are part of a far-reaching community. So when you gather behind the start line, waiting for the countdown, you know you have 50,000 kindred spirits across the globe willing you on.

Ian Rosser

parkrun Leeds is every Saturday morning at 9am. It is free to enter but you must register in advance at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/leeds/

The Trades Hub Leeds – building better local businesses

Good for Leeds spoke with Anthony Caine, who runs an electrical business in Leeds and Wakefield, about an affiliate organisation he thinks is Good for Leeds for two huge reasons; it supports good local ‘trades’ businesses to grow and it provides a seal of quality for customers looking for a tradesperson.

Small businesses certainly appear ‘Good for Leeds’ on a number of levels. The simple generalisation goes that smaller companies often offer a friendlier and personal service, and that they spend money locally in a way big companies don’t; both in terms of buying supplies and spending their income. And they are certainly much less likely to park profits in a complex tax avoidance scheme via a shell parent company in Amsterdam. As they grow, they generally recruit locally, helping secure stronger links with the communities from which they draw their profits.

But buying small or local is no guarantee of quality, especially when it comes to picking a tradesperson out of the yellow pages. For every local hero we enthusiastically recommend to all and sundry, there’s probably at least one horror story of cowboys, extra charges and unfinished jobs.

Anthony Caine of A Caine Electrical is a member of an affiliate organisation, The Trades Hub, which he considers gives both small construction businesses and customers what they need.

Businesses pay the Hub to join, and in return get access to a network of other businesses in the construction profession as well as training, coaching and advice in areas like marketing. It works on a local basis, so Leeds has its own Hub. Members form across the construction industry use the networking meetings, company profiles and the social media accounts to pass work to one another. Anthony says the hub’s exacting standards, joining fee and reliance on the network for future referrals, keeps the cowboys away.

“Because you’re in an affiliation, you don’t want to let anyone down. It stops all the things that can go on, like the bad jobs, people not turning up, when you’re trying to organise a job with other tradespoeple who you don’t know, or if they aren’t governed by anyone. There is a strong focus on high quality and better customer service.

“It brings a high calibre of tradespeople together all working to the same kind of goal. It costs to join – but you more than make that back from the work it generates – and they say clearly that you can talk the talk all you like; if you can’t walk the walk you’ll probably be asked to leave.”

Anthony thinks the Hub offers vital support to small businesses that he hasn’t seen anywhere else.

“It has a completely different feel to anything else out there. I’ve met people I’d never have met, and got lots of work with other like-minded people. They get you to think about where you want to be in 10-15 years and then accelerate it. There can be a lot of animosity between tradespeople, but this removes that.”

Customers can see the Trades Hub members’ directory.  If you use it for a referral, please drop on here and let us know if the Hub delivered.

A Caine Electrical provide Electrical Testing and Installation to commercial and domestic customers. Find him @ACaineElectric and@TheTradesHub on twitter.

We’ve featured The Trades Hub because Anthony got in touch. If you want to share the story of a business or service which you think is ‘Good for Leeds’, contact us through our directory or email good4leeds@gmail.com.

Job’s a Goodden at the LGI

Mark Travis writes about a combination of exceptional expertise and customer service which would make any business or enterprise an asset to the city. But he’s writing about a hospital, so I wasn’t sure if it fit our criteria as we want goodforleeds to identify great organisations which we can further support as consumers. But then I remembered we’re theoretically all customers of healthcare now, making choices about accessing services in a growing marketplace. So it absolutely makes sense to shine a light on the exceptional. If you disagree, let us know through the comments.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Stand outside the main entrance of Leeds General Infirmary and you are likely to think ‘Grey. Drab. Miserable.’

Not me, I see colour.

LGI

Yes, it’s had a lot of questionable coverage in the last few years. But I speak as I find: LGI splashes a rainbow.

That colour, in truth, is down to many reasons, but overwhelmingly due to one man.

Introducing John Goodden.

In Mr Goodden, Leeds boasts a bones boffin of great repute. I know this due to the exceptional work he did for one of my daughter’s, who has some spinal problems along with Down syndrome.

He did it not only effectively, but with a style not seen with hospital visits generally – and our family has had squatting rights in West Yorkshire’s wards.

I actually enjoyed our chats with this spinal consultant. On my daughter’s progress mainly, but Mr Goodden could wax lyrical on tech, music and car snow chains. Like me!

He also served the patient superbly. Need to check the movement in my four-year-old daughter?.. Mr Goodden had no problem climbing up on to a window ledge to fully assess her neck movement. A ledge-end, if you will.

There was also no aloofness or stiffness you can often find in so-called superior people generally. Mr Goodden put my daughter first and would often consult with others when he thought they may offer a better course of action.

Heck, even his colleague Val was great. Replying, fully and promptly when I emailed for help.

From experience, Mr Goodden was a good ‘un.

From local TV Mr Gooden was a good ‘un too. I switched on the box late last year to stumble upon a news report on  how Mr Gooden is a Trans-Atlantic trailblazer when it comes to bonesmithery (Preview) . Do click the link to feel good about Leeds!

To recap everyone, the Infirmary is a great thing for Leeds to have, thanks to its people. Not least John Goodden.

And that blog folks is the letter I should have wrote to Mr Goodden when he finished overseeing my daughter’s vast spinal progress.

Cheers, Sir! I’ll make sure you get this.

Mark is from Lancashire, but don’t hold it against him. Nor his tendency towards puns honed over years spent on some of the north’s most read publications. He lives this way now and goes by the Google-bumping moniker marktravisinfo. Mark has big designs on Down syndrome and appreciates you boosting his Klout rating by responding to this and his general social media addiction.  His website can be found at marktravisinfo.com.

Cakes, coffee and confidence at the Courtyard Cafe

It is very rare to be able to say that a café is run as much for its employees as for its customers (and not mean customers are treated as an intrusion!), but the Courtyard Café is such a place.

Its sharp looks (a range of modern furniture, contemporary colour scheme)  and clientele (groups of young parents with prams and people like me reading a paper) would be at home on the high street of any affluent suburb. Which is just as well, as it sits at the top of Horsforth town street, which offers a few food and drink options to residents of what one of my friends who was brought up there insists is ‘England’s largest village’.*

The menu isn’t full of surprises or particularly extensive, but the food is plentiful, tasty and offers good value for a decent lunch or a quick coffee and cake. But while the customer experience is central to the Courtyard Café’s business model, it’s the experience gained by its staff that sets it apart from the competition.

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Courtyard Café was set up as a social enterprise just over 12 months ago to offer support and care for people with learning disabilities after Leeds City Council – which part-funds the café through a grant – closed local day care centres.

The Courtyard’s manager, Jenna Peel, explained the model. They currently have 28 volunteers with learning disabilities, typically working 1 or 2 days a week fulfilling all the roles front of house and cooking roles in a café.

There is no specific length of volunteering placement, but the goal is to build the confidence and competence to ultimately find paid work, something which Jenna believes will happen very soon.

 “We’ve just celebrated our first anniversary and many of the café’s employees are ready; there are some really competent and employable people. And it is more than just café or food prep work work; they are really confident and customer-focused.

“You can definitely see a change in people. We have a few people who were quite scared to start with. Within the first few weeks confidence builds, and their personality starts to come out. All the volunteers enjoy coming. They take responsibility to come here themselves and enjoy it.”

The enthusiasm, pride and involvement of the two volunteers today – Daniel and Catherine – certainly reinforces Jenna’s point.

And there is more than the Courtyard Café’s employment policy to recommend it as goodforleeds. The company is committed to ‘Honest Ethical Local’ principles. All the ingredients are locally and organically sourced, something which is easier to do with meat and bread than the fruit and veg. Remarkably, Jenna tells me,  England’s largest village doesn’t have its own independent grocers! Jenna says the ‘Local’ appreciation is reciprocated:

“We’ve had a really good reaction from people who come into the café. They seem really glad we are here.”

The menu has just changed to mark the café’s second year, but it all remains home-made – and regulars will be pleased to know that the range of quiches and cakes have survived the overhaul.

*My rudimentary research into this suggests that Horsforth is not alone in claiming this title!

The Courtyard Cafe
96 Town Street
Horsforth
Leeds
LS18 4AP

Phone: 07805 640 009
Blog: http://www.thecourtyardcafe.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Court_Yard_Cafe
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/horsforthcafe

Fabrication – a gift to Leeds’ retail offer

I hate shopping. I like buying things, mainly when I want gifts for other people or to replace whichever one of my favourite possessions has reached such a state of disrepair that it becomes embarrassing to be seen in or with it. I just hate the retail experience. All too often I’ve found myself plodding round identikit pedestrianized zones, conveyor belts directing me past the same shops all selling variations of the same ‘on trend’ products.  What I am always looking for is something which stands out from the crowd of clones; a product with a story, something personal and preferably unique. If it gives local designers, manufacturing processes or disadvantaged groups an otherwise closed route to the marketplace which the high-street’s big-hitters would happily fence off, then all the better. Luckily, Leeds’ ‘retail offer’ gives us far more than department stores and pound shops.

So when Chris LG recommended Fabrication through our directory page, goodforleeds dispatched blogger Dorit-Samantha Vaknine to interview the store’s manager to find out more:

Fabrication is a shop like no other selling hand made products including crafts, jewellery, jams and cordials- an extremely eclectic mix of products! I interviewed Dawn the manager to find out more about her store and the impact it has on Leeds.

Here is a Q and A

Q: How long has the business been going?

A: The business has been going 4 and half years in total and the shop 1 and a half years

Q: What makes your shop unique?

A: Everything in here is made by locals so you feel part of the community. We also put on craft events, which enable people to network which is very useful. Also people with learning disabilities have a chance to show off their skills and make some products for us, we promote equality.

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Q: What kind of products do you sell?

A: Anything from jams and cordials for you to take home to your friends, to ceramics, jewellery, we have a very diverse mix. Products starting from £1 and rising up to £400, so we have something to suit everyone’s taste and budget.

Q: Who do you class as the demographic for your shop?

A: There isn’t a specific demographic, we cater for a huge mix of ages to suit every market and price range, I think this is why the shop has been such a success.

Q: How many collaborators are you currently working with?

A: Currently we have 41 collaborators making the products

Q: Do you think your shop improves Leeds as a city?

A: Yes, I think the shop improves the city, people like the ethos behind it

Q: What do you think makes you so unique?

A: We don’t sell things that you find in other people’s shops, you would never find any of our products elsewhere. Interior designers come in for clients to get things made up specifically. We also have a ‘Wishlist’ which people can fill out and we can make anything they want, you also know that if you buy something from us that it will be original and of   really good quality.

Q: Finally, what makes your business good for Leeds?

A: We are unique. friendly, local and independent. We are not funded so every penny goes to the sellers so that they don’t starve. Also, we are not mass produced.

I would like to thank Dawn for her time and insight into her business.

Dorit-Samantha Vaknine is a writer, radio personality and chatterbox rolled into one. Follow her on twitter @1970s fan, and read her blog about 1970s sit-coms at http://1970sfan.wordpress.com .

Fabrication Crafts Ltd, Unit A20, The Light,
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS2 8NG
0113 243 9140
For opening times and a full list of workshops and events, go to http://www.fabric-ation.co.uk/

 

Giving ex-offenders an enterprising opportunity

The scene I witnessed at Carlshead Farm, in the village of Sicklinghall somewhere on the meandering roads between Otley and Wetherby, would no doubt delight some sections of our society.
Young men on probation spending a long, hard day chopping wood in hostile, bitterly cold conditions.
But they aren’t being forced into this as part of some new hard-line punitive programme; each and every one wants to be here. They volunteered for the 12-week training course they hope will lead to what they really want and need – the chance to earn a living.


The case for giving offenders a helping hand finding employment is well established. 75% of proven offences are committed by re-offenders, but an offender with a job is 50% less likely to reoffend. So the equation is simple; more opportunities for ex-offenders to earn a sustainable, honest income means fewer victims, fewer crimes and people paying tax into the public purse instead of consuming it to clean up their crimes. It’s this equation that has led Leeds Prison to form a ‘resettlement wing’, which offers support with drugs and addictions coupled with work experience and links to potential jobs on release.

Carlshead – a 273 acre farm, managed by Father and son Robin and Gareth Gaunt – offers an unlikely and unfamiliar setting to kickstart careers of these lads. But this is no ordinary farm. The partnership with West Yorkshire Probation Service and Lower Dales training is the latest in a long line of innovations; from breeding Alpaca to offering a care farm programme which uses the outdoors and contact with animals to support health, recovery and to engage the disengaged.

It’s bloody freezing when I join them mid-morning, and they’ve already been at it for a couple of hours. Gareth talks me through what they’re doing; they’ve done all the ‘boring’ health and safety and manual handling stuff, and are now learning some very traditional skills which our woodland hasn’t benefited from for a long time. Less mechanical, more traditional and therefore more sustainable methods.

They’ve been learning how to pull logs with a horse, lay hedges, and manage coppice alongside standard trees for greater bio-diversity. But the main reason lots of woodland isn’t managed properly in the UK is that it isn’t profitable to do so, so how might this lead to a sustainable income for these lads? The answer could well lie in the wood they’re chopping, then burning in a kiln to create charcoal.

Gareth says:
We’re exploring whether we can create a couple of social enterprises which could provide employment. There’s a really good opportunity with charcoal; most people will buy imported charcoal which burns very fast. We could offer a much better quality product with a really great story behind it; buying British, creating local jobs, and giving these lads a chance.”

Christian, 26, is like most of the other lads on the course. Since offending he hasn’t been able to find any work. Some haven’t worked for six or seven years. Christian moved to London to take a job in IT, only to be made redundant. After that, he got into trouble, got a criminal record and has found it near impossible to get a chance to work. Like his colleagues on the course, he didn’t envisage a farm providing his livelihood.

Being on this farm is pretty different from what we’re used to on council estates in Leeds, but we’re all enjoying it.”

Christian talks with great authority and enthusiasm about managing woodland, and has even found one friend who’ll talk to him about different hedge styles. Like all the lads I spoke to, Christian is hoping it leads to a job or a viable self-employment opportunity. But it’s also clear that just being on the course is having a big impact, and reinforcing all the reasons they want work in the first place.

“People give you a different response. You hear the lads saying it about our hi-vis vests. When you’re walking through the train station people look at you and think ‘he’s been grafting’. It makes you feel like a part of society again.”

When the 12-week programme is over, Carlshead will try to develop some of the business ideas during a month-long, full time project. They’ve got potential for a small bakery (with a very local distribution), as well as the charcoal and kindling.
The business idea is just emerging, but if you want to register in advance to become one of the enterprise’s first customers to receive its high quality firewood with a great story, you can get in touch with Gareth on the contact details below.


Gareth is also trying to bring in like-minded businesses to the farm’s business centre. For more on this and the other services, go to http://www.carlshead.co.uk
Carlshead Farms
Paddock House Lane
Sicklinghall
Wetherby
LS22 4BL
info@carlshead.co.uk

Event hire takes Seacroft residents across the digital divide

Andrew Grinnel writes about an enterprise which uses an event-equipment hire service to offer Seacroft residents employment opportunities, legal advice, support finding work and all the benefits of joining the digital age – all through a converted unit on Ramshead Hill shopping parade.
For the last 5 years I’ve been involved in running outdoor events within my local neighbourhood. As most of us do this as volunteers, it’s always a scramble to ensure that all the infrastructure is in place, all the forms have been correctly filled in and health and safety fully organised.
Last year, for the first time, we used LS14 Trust Event Hire to hire the generators for one of our events. There were four things that made us feel good about hiring them.


1. The equipment was new and of a good quality – we knew it wouldn’t break down during our event.
2. They run events in areas similar to ours. Therefore they know the complications that this may bring and had experience to help us make wise choices about everything from what we ‘really needed’ to where to place everything in order to be safe.
3. Most companies don’t deliver or pick up generators at the weekend. LS14 Trust Event Hire dropped it off as we were setting up and were there, promptly when we finished so we didn’t need to find safe storage till Monday morning.
4. We knew that by using them to provide their services, the money would get recycled into community development work in East Leeds. For us, it felt better than the money disappearing into someone else’s business account and inevitably away from the areas that we feel need it most. All in all, working with LS14 Trust was a great experience and as we begin planning for our events this summer, we know who we’ll be calling.
Andrew

How does it work?

LS14 Trust Event Hire organises four major community events a year, and employs local people to oversee the hire equipment. Profits support the Digital Lounge, which has 650 members aged from 8 to 78. Between 30 and 50 people a day use the lounge to overcome the digital divide, mainly adults looking for work, who get help with their CVs and searches, and kids looking to check their social media accounts. A work club delivers one-to-one support, with 35% of referrals from the job centre plus going into employment or work-related opportunities.
It also offers meeting space, other IT resources, advice and sign-posts to other services.

Ls14 Trust 45 Ramshead Hill Seacroft Ls14 1BT
T: 0113 318 0522
E: info@ls14trust.org.uk

Development Manager
Nicola Greenan
E: nicola@ls14trust.org.uk

Membership Development Officer
Joanne Curtis
E: jo@ls14trust.org.uk

Bramley Baths get active in the community

In our first guest blog, Ben Whittington tells us why his community-owned local swimming pool is good for Bramley.
I’ve been a resident of Bramley for nearly three years now. We moved to the area because of the good railway link to Leeds and also because we loved the house we went on to buy – an edwardian terrace house in need of a lot of work but, despite the abuse it had suffered over the years, still retained an underlying charm. Despite the brutal unsympathetic redevelopment that occurred in the 60s and 70s Bramley itself still retains a fair amount of buildings from this period, the most iconic of them being Bramley Baths.
Photo by Spherical Boy

Photo by Spherical Boy

The Baths has recently been saved from closure by a local community group (The Friends Of Bramley Baths) and not only have they managed to keep the pool open by taking over the running of it from the council they’re also passionate about what the Baths can offer the community, and this really shines through when visiting. The lobby has been redecorated and and now features a variety of photographs some of which were taken in the early nineteen hundreds and along with the staff who work there give the impression that ‘The Friends’ recognise how important the history of the pool is to the area and want to celebrate that too. The baths also seem much cleaner than they did when they were run by the council and the prices are cheaper than most places. As well as the swimming pool there is a Russian Steam room, a gym and a variety of fitness classes.SUBMERGED 99

Photo by Lizzie Coombes

I would encourage all residents of Bramley and even people further afield to give the Baths a try, it’s one of the last remaining Edwardian Bath Houses in the country and not only does it feature amazing vintage charm it’s now being run on a not-for-profit basis by people in the community for people in the community and I feel that that is something well worth supporting.
 Ben is a graphic designer who also blogs about beer. Follow him on twitter @ben_whittington .

Bramley Baths is on Broad Lane, Bramley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS13 3DF.

Tel: 0113 214 6000

Follow them on twitter @bramleybaths or find them on facebook.