You might want to finish reading all the ebooks you purchased from Microsoft as soon as you can because they are going away — for good.
Microsoft announced that ebooks bought from Microsoft store would be deleted this month, but those who have purchased them will get a refund. In an FAQ entry for Books in Microsoft, they said that they had closed the book category since April 2, 2019, and will permanently delete the books this month.
“Starting April 2, 2019, the books category in Microsoft Store will be closing. Unfortunately, this means that starting July 2019 your ebooks will no longer be available to read, but you’ll get a full refund for all book purchases,” reads the FAQ.
This means that since April 2, Microsoft was no longer selling or renting ebooks in its platform but said that users could continue to use Microsoft Edge to read books you’ve acquired until early July 2019. Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening: your ebooks will disappear, including those you have downloaded for free in the platform.
Furthermore, all pre-orders made but not delivered before April 2 were canceled.
Microsoft started selling ebooks since 2017. However, the ebook services of the company did not gain much popularity due to certain technical limitations. One of these limitations is its exclusivist property: everyone who bought or downloaded an ebook from Microsoft’s platform cannot read those books unless they use the Microsoft Edge browser as the tech giant failed to develop a dedicated ebook reader application.
It’s also very restrictive. The ebooks that came from Microsoft Books came with a DRM. Digital rights management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they’ve purchased.
And since DRMs also work remotely, the presence of those locks makes it possible for Microsoft to delete all ebooks containing DRMs they control anytime they needed to.
Nonetheless, Microsoft promised to automatically process the refunds for those who are affected by its closing down of its book category in the Microsoft Store.
“Refund processing for eligible customers start rolling out automatically in early July 2019 to your original payment method,” they said.
But what happens if a user has changed their payment methods like changed their cards or if the cards have expired? According to the company, if the original payment method is no longer valid, they will credit the amount equal to the refundable value of all the ebooks deleted from the user in their Microsoft accounts. The user can then use the credit to make other purchases on the platform. Those who purchased ebooks using gift cards and existing credits, Microsoft will also return the credits to their store accounts as well.
Moreover, there is also another problem for ebook owners who use in-book notes and annotate in their ebooks? Well, Microsoft will be paying for those annotations.
“Mark-ups and annotations made in books acquired from Microsoft Store will be available until early July 2019 when your books are removed from Microsoft Edge. If you have made mark-ups or annotations in any of your acquired books prior to April 2, 2019, you’ll receive an additional $25 credit to your Microsoft account at the same time refunds are processed,” Microsoft informs its users.
This outcome has been predicted 15 years ago
This entire debacle with Microsoft ebooks underscores the dangers of DRM and how it can be a tool for companies to build or protect better products, but to lock users into one company’s commercial ecosystem, eroding choice and flexibility. Such thing has since been predicted by Cory Doctorow during a speech he made at Microsoft, 15 years ago.
“Microsoft once had an ebook store filled with ‘buy now’ buttons—today, Microsoft tells us that we never bought anything, that we merely conditionally licensed it,” Doctorow told reporters in an email.
“We have allowed to raise a tech industry whose products are booked as a purchase when it is advantageous to the sales pitch to do so, and then silently, instantly converted to a licensing deal when commercial logic demands it,” he argued.