There are a lot of nice things about eBooks — you can store hundreds on an eReader or smartphone, making them easy to travel with. You can adjust the font size. Maybe you can even have your device read them aloud to you.
But if you pay for eBooks from Amazon, NOOK, Kobo, or most other major sellers, you’re often not so much buying a book as purchasing a license to read it. Thanks to DRM (digital rights management) software, you can’t give away or resell eBooks the way you can with paper books. And if the DRM servers shut down, you might not even be able to read your books anymore.
So when Microsoft announced recently that it was getting out of the eBook business, the company promised to issue refunds to customers who had purchased digital books… because when the company shuts down its server this month the eBooks will “no longer be available to read.”
It seems like Microsoft is following through on that promise — refunds have started going out.
Refunds appear to be rolling out in stages, so not every customer will get their money back at the same time. Interestingly it also looks like anyone who downloaded a free eBook from Microsoft is also getting an email letting them know that they’ve received a $0 refund.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft has launched and killed an eBook store… which makes me wonder why anyone would have bothered “buying” from the store during the two years it was in operation. But I guess not everyone got the memo.
For now, I suppose it’s better to get the refunds than nothing… but if you want to make sure you can keep the eBooks you pay for in the future, you might want to investigate options for DRM-free eBooks.
Kobo does offer some, as do other stores such as Smashwords. And some publishers offer DRM-free sales directly from their websites including Angry Robot and Baen. Tor also notes that all of its eBooks are DRM-free, no matter where you buy them (including the Amazon Kindle, NOOK, Kobo, Apple, and Google stores).
There are tools that allow you to remove the DRM from some eBooks, but the doing so may be illegal in some regions, so I’ll let you Google that on your own.