RIP Microsoft Reader

RIP Microsoft Reader

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 putting it out of its misery.

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 tie-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!


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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

1 Comment on "RIP Microsoft Reader"

  1. I got a Pocket PC day of release … still have the HP Jornada 545, love the stylus and the paper-like screen feel, but performance (with Reader in particular) was rather poor.

    Reader reminds me of sitting and reading for about an hour after giving a talk at the SPIE conference that was in one of the smaller sections, but they opened up the back because I had done a provocative topic and it was attended by estimated 750 people (<2000 total conference). The book was Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which I had formatted using the OverDrive software to Reader format.

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