Anyone who bought ebooks through the Microsoft Store is in for a rude
shock in the coming days. The good news? You can get a refund. The bad
news? All of your books are going to be deleted this month.
Microsoft announced in April that it would stop selling ebooks and that any books the company already sold would stop working in early July because the DRM servers were being shut off. Yes, you read that correctly. Those books that you “bought” are going to disappear. Even the “free” books that you downloaded through Microsoft will be deleted.
Microsoft started selling ebooks back in 2017 but tech limitations made them unpopular with users. As my colleague Alex Cranz explained back in April, anyone who bought Microsoft’s ebooks had to use Microsoft’s Edge browser and the company never made a dedicated ebook reader application. The books also came with restrictive DRM, the digital locks on media that prohibit people from sharing the files with others. Unfortunately, the existence of those same locks are the precise reason that Microsoft can pull the plug on your books remotely.
Users will automatically get refunded to whatever account they have on file, but if your credit card has expired or you don’t have a payment stored with the company, Microsoft will give you a credit that can be used online in the Microsoft Store.
What happens if you made annotations or notes in your ebooks? Those are going to disappear too. But Microsoft is giving $25 to anyone who made annotations in their books prior to April 2. How generous, right?
This entire debacle shows just how ridiculous our current media landscape can be when we’re all purchasing movies, games, and books through companies using DRM. Few people expect the Apple’s Store to go away anytime soon, but what happens 10 or 20 years from now when a competitor comes along and Apple decides that it’s too expensive to maintain its own servers? Back in the days of DVD, no one could take your movies away from you. Now all it takes is the flick of a switch on many platforms, as we can see quite clearly with Microsoft’s latest clusterfuck. As Cory Doctorow explains over at Boing Boing, he predicted this exact scenario when he gave a talk at Microsoft 15 years ago.