A few years ago Microsoft built support for reading eBooks into its Edge web browser, and began selling eBooks through the Microsoft Store.
Today the company stopped selling eBooks. It’s canceled pre-orders. And it’ll start issuing refunds for any books you might have purchased.
While that last bit sounds downright consumer-friendly, this next bit doesn’t: any eBook you’ve purchased from the Microsoft Store will no longer be readable come July, 2019.
Sure, the decision to issue refunds will soften the blow. And it’s nice that Microsoft either has so much money that it can afford to do this… or that few enough people actually bought eBooks from the company that it’s trivial to do this.
But the move also comes as the latest reminder that if you pay for eBooks, music, movies, video games, or any other content from a store that uses DRM, then you aren’t really buying those digital items so much as paying a license fee for the rights to access them… a right that can be revoked if the company decides to remove a title from your device unexpectedly or if a company shuts down a server that would normally handle the digital rights management features.
Microsoft says you’ll be able to read any books you’ve purchased until July, but after that they will no longer be available and you’ll receive a free refund. Any free books you’ve downloaded will just cease to be accessible.
If you’ve made notes in your eBooks using the mark-up and annotation tools Microsoft was so proud of when the company launched the Edge web browser, those will be gone forever. In exchange, Microsoft will give you a $25 credit for purchases made from the Microsoft Store.
You might want to think about using that money to buy hardware rather than software. It may last longer.
It is also technically possible to remove the DRM from eBooks you’ve purchased from Amazon and sites that use Adobe’s DRM (including the Microsoft Store, Kobo, B&N, and others), but that may be illegal depending on where you live — and at the very least I’d probably feel guilty about stripping DRM from books purchased from Microsoft and receiving a full refund for those books.
As for Microsoft, I wonder if the company’s decision to exit the eBook business (again) has anything to do with the fact that Microsoft is killing its EdgeHTML rendering engine and using Google’s Chromium as the foundation for future versions of the Edge web browser.