Physical versus digital debate will no doubt begin raging after Microsoft’s rather stunning announcement that they are ending all eBook sales. On Monday, Microsoft is ending all eBook sales from its Microsoft Store for Windows PC. That means any books purchased will be removed from users’ libraries in early July. That includes free ones. Microsoft will offer refunds to users for any books they’ve purchased or preordered.
Microsoft’s “official reason,” according to ZDNet, is that this move is part of a strategy to help streamline the focus of the Microsoft Store. It seems that the company no longer has an interest in trying to compete with Amazon, Apple Books, and Google Play Books. It’s a bit hard to imagine why anyone would go with Microsoft over those options anyway.
If you have purchased eBooks from Microsoft, you can continue accessing them through the Edge browser until everything vanishes in July. After that, customers can expect to automatically receive a refund.
According to a newly published Microsoft Store FAQ, “refund processing for eligible customers start rolling out automatically in early July 2019 to your original payment method.” If your original payment method is no longer valid (or if you used a gift card), you’ll receive a credit back to your Microsoft account to use online at the Microsoft Store.
The debate about digital purchases versus physical will resume, yet again. Though Microsoft is ending all eBook sales, it resurrects that old debate. The main complaint about people moving toward a digital version (i.e. games, movies, comics, etc.) what happens to the consumer when the company no longer supports these purchases or closes down? Yes, Microsoft is offering refunds but look what is happening with Ultraviolet? All digital versions of your movies will be lost unless you have them open on another platform like Vudu or Movies Anywhere.
We know that companies like Apple or Amazon won’t disappear overnight. However, Microsoft is not a small company. They claim to be shifting their focus. What happens if some other major company decides that it isn’t worth the hassle anymore? It is for this reason, I suspect that we haven’t seen the end of brick-and-mortar stores or the rise of physical purchases.