Ebooks purchased at Microsoft’s online store are vanishing from people’s libraries

People have started losing access to ebook titles that they purchased through Microsoft’s online store.

Microsoft has been forced to pull out of the market after failing to build a large enough audience for its ebook service − its third unsuccessful attempt since 2000. Microsoft launched the latest version of its ebook service in 2017 but was forced to close it down yesterday.

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Customers were warned in April that their ebooks would disappear from the Microsoft Store and that they would no longer be able to buy, rent or pre-order them. They were also told that they would continue to receive access to purchases until July, when refunds would begin to roll out.

Any ebooks that were downloaded for free have subsequently been removed from users’ libraries and customers who purchased titles through the Microsoft Store are being offered refunds.

£20/$25 in credit is also being handed out to users that scrawled highlights or notes in their copies, as these cannot be recovered either.

Microsoft actually teamed up with US retailer Barnes & Noble to launch its first ebook reader – Microsoft Reader – and the LIT file format in 2000, about seven years before Amazon released the Kindle and pretty much took over the industry.

The original Microsoft Reader and LIT format lasted until 2012 when it closed and was re-released a year later as an application to read PDF, XPS and TIFF documents in.

Read our review of the Amazon Kindle 2019

Microsoft also entered into a second partnership with Barnes & Noble in 2012, investing $300 million in the company’s Nook e-readers. The deal lasted only two years before Barnes & Noble bought out Microsoft in 2014 for less than half of Nook’s original value.

This latest service launched on web browsers in 2017 in an effort to make Microsoft’s Surface computers a popular choice for consuming ebooks on the go but, ultimately, the reader could not drum up the audience the company needed to keep it going.

Read our review of the Kindle Paperwhite

Digital rights management tools mean that when you purchase most ebooks you don’t actually own them. What you are buying is a license that can expire at any moment, keeping Microsoft and other ebook retailers in control of your digital library.

Though DRM tools do help to protect copyrighted works from being stolen, Microsoft’s closure certainly serves as a reminder of what you are paying for when you open your favourite ebook retailer’s website.

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