Microsoft is closing down its ebooks platform. All books will be deleted from the giant’s cloud, including ones purchased by users, by July 2019. Those purchases will be met with a full refund, with a bonus $25 credit if you’ve actually used the annotations within the books software prior to April 2, 2019.
Meant exclusively for the Microsoft Edge browser, which struggles with only a 4.4-percent share of the browser market, the company’s books program struggled from the beginning. An early review from PC World noted that ” features you might expect in an e-reader app, and which are available elsewhere in Windows—inking, highlighting, sticky notes, titled bookmarks—haven’t yet made it to Edge’s e-reading experience.”
These features were later updated, but the service seemed to lag behind Amazon’s Kindle and Apple Books. Books on the Edge app weren’t downloadable, losing much convenience for the reader.
The closure marks the computer giant’s third attempt to enter the ebook market, where 266 million books were sold in 2017. The first began in the year 2000, before e-print, when MS Reader tried to sell books for LCD screens. In 2011, the company put the rarely-updated software out to pasture. The next year they tried again, paying $300 million to invest in and partner with Barnes & Noble’s Nook division. However, nothing much came of the deal—it was dissolved a mere two years later, with Barnes & Noble buying out Microsoft.
The closure of Edge’s e-reader marks Microsoft’s third failed reader program of this decade. It also highlights the increased vulnerability of property in a streaming age. The idea of a bookstore proprietor entering your home and taking your books because their store has closed down makes no sense, yet that is the risk customers take when trusting their media completely to streaming. It’s a risk Microsoft customers have seen before with streaming music.
It’s unclear if Microsoft will make another attempt at an ebook market. For now, the online marketplace gets one seller shorter, while independent bookstores seem to have created a sustained moment of success.