If you used a Pocket PC/Windows Mobile device, you probably were somewhat familiar with Microsoft Reader. It was Microsoft’s answer to the niche ebook market, though it was left behind as Mobipocket was purchased by Amazon, eReader by Fictionwise (and the combined entity by B&N) and of course the rise of dedicated ebook readers like the Kindle and NOOK. Still, it was one of the early ebook pioneers, and now Microsoft is
Before you wail and gnash your teeth, though, Microsoft is doing this in a very orderly fashion. They’re giving almost a full-year heads up, announcing the final shutdown on August 30, 2012. Once they turn off the website, though, your books will not implode, and existing .LIT titles and programs installed on your PC will continue to function. In other words, any digital rights management will be maintained for your titles. On top of that, Microsoft is decommissioning sales of any new .LIT titles in November, so you don’t have to worry about buying one in July of 2012 and seeing the program shut down in August. While it seems the entire ebook world is dominated by NOOK and Kindle, there are a few places still selling LIT titles, the biggest being Fictionwise. Presumably if Fictionwise is still around in November they’ll cease to offer .LIT under their multiformat offerings.
More important than the .LIT format itself, this is the second example this year of an ebookstore being shut down in an orderly fashion. First Borders was reabsorbed into Kobo, and now Microsoft is shutting down .LIT. Borders was more of a repatriation, since their store was run behind the scenes by Kobo, but it’s still worth noting that no one was left in the cold as a result of the bankruptcy. Likewise, Microsoft is organizing a smooth transition for the format, with a very long lead time for everyone still using the service.
One of the big knocks on ebooks is the nebulous fear that the company selling the books (and the tied-in digital rights management scheme) will up and disappear on the consumer. Questions like “What if Amazon loses interest in the Kindle?”, or “What if B&N goes bankrupt?” tend to come up quite often in anti-ebook arguments. But now we have two very recent examples of ebookstores that have disappeared, and both times everything is being unwound in an orderly fashion with an eye to offering the best possible consumer outcome. So while it’s entirely possible an ebookstore could go boom with far worse consequences in the future, that’s not the precedent, and companies are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Are you still using Microsoft Reader? Will this impact your reading and buying habits? Sound off below!