Microsoft started selling ebooks back in 2017, but now the Microsoft Store has shut down its ebook marketplace for good. As far as e-reading goes, Microsoft’s option was never our favorite. Instead of offering an ereader application, all books had to be read in the Microsoft Edge browser. Compared to Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, both of which have both dedicated ereaders and apps for every mobile platform, Microsoft’s ebook efforts felt a little clunky.
It’s not terribly surprising that Microsoft couldn’t muscle its way into Kindle-owners' hearts with its ebook efforts — but what’s happening next is a bit of a surprise. While the company stopped selling ebooks a few months ago, now it’s going a step further and deleting any ebooks you purchased.
It may seem puzzling that something you bought could be quietly removed from your devices, but the issue is Microsoft’s DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM is designed to prevent you from illegally copying and sharing ebooks, music, movies and other digital files — but it can cause problems in a case like this, when a service that uses DRM is shut down.
With the closing of its digital bookstore, Microsoft is also closing down the DRM servers that let you access your books. When the DRM server goes offline, any books — even free books — you downloaded from the Microsoft Store will disappear, along with any annotations you made to them.
While you may not realize it, losing access to your purchases is simply a risk that comes with buying digital content, much of which is protected with DRM. Some products, like free or public domain ebooks, don't come with DRM — but if you've bought a Kindle book or an iTunes movie, it's protected by DRM. Typically, the best way to avoid the problem is to purchase from a major company who can be counted on to stick around and keep its DRM servers running. Major retailers like Amazon, Apple and Google aren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon, so your purchases are safe. But that's what's so worrying about Microsoft's ebook store: you thought you could rely on Microsoft to safeguard your digital purchases, but the company is closing down its servers all the same.
If you do own ebooks from Microsoft, there is a recourse. When your books are deleted, Microsoft will refund you the full purchase price, plus an extra $25 if you had annotated books. The cash will go to your original purchase method or, if not available, go as credit to your Microsoft Store account. All of this will happen automatically, so you don’t need to do anything other than double-check that you received the appropriate refund. With your refund in hand, you can rebuy your books on another digital platform — or perhaps decide to switch back to paper.
Microsoft hasn’t given a specific date on when its ebook servers will go offline, simply saying books will be available through early July. Ebooks will be available right up until refunds are issued, at which point they’re gone for good — so if you're in the middle of a good book, you should aim to finish it soon.
[Image credit: girl reading ebook via BigStockPhoto]