Customers who purchased digital books from the Microsoft store will soon be forced to return them.
The store was available on Microsoft Edge, the companies’ internet browser.
“Starting April 2, 2019, the books category in Microsoft Store will be closing,” a statement on the company website read. “Unfortunately, this means that starting July 2019 your ebooks will no longer be available to read.”
Any books purchased will be refunded, the company says.
The move is an attempt to “streamline the strategic focus of the Microsoft Store,” ZDNet reported.
The removal of the books prompted discussions about what ownership really is in the digital age.
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“Books are a product, not a service. If you spend hundreds on a library, protect it,” author Alexandra Erin wrote on Twitter after the announcement.
It’s an “interesting development that raises important questions of ownership,” Cardiff Business School lecturer Rebecca Mardon told Global News.
Mardon, whose research focuses on digital ownership, says ebooks have always been subjected to complex ownership rights, and are subject to End User Agreements which restrict how the books are used.
The BBC reports that all e-book stores — including the major ones like Kindle and Apple — follow the same basic principles as Microsoft, and if they closed, would likely revoke access to the books as well.
“When purchasing ebooks from companies such as Microsoft, the consumer actually purchases a non-transferable licence to consume the ebook in restricted ways,” Mardon explained.
That’s different from actually “owning” a book, she said, because you aren’t able to do things like loan it out to a friend.
“If our local bookstore closed down, the owner wouldn’t knock on our door demanding to remove previously purchased books from our shelves, yet the digital realm presents new scenarios and new threats to ownership that our physical possessions haven’t prepared us for.”