The next chapter in Microsoft and e-books

The next chapter in Microsoft and e-books

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of reporting this morning on an

MSPowerUser report by Mehedi Hassan

which shows what appears to be a new e-bookstore coming to Windows 10.

At least in the “mainstreamy” tech news, I haven’t seen them referring back to Microsoft’s history with e-books which is, so to speak, storied. 😉

If we start with something recent, Microsoft had invested something like $300 million in Barnes & Noble and the NOOK in 2012…and then, by 2014, was outta there:

Microsoft gives up on the NOOK: a tipping point for B&N?

That was after Microsoft had sued Barnes and Noble in 2011…over the NOOK.

I do think this e-bookstore, as shown, is a serious blow to B&N’s digital literature business…but that’s a bit like discovering a burned out lightbulb on the Titanic. 😉 Not only is Microsoft no longer supporting B&N, they are taking the life raft and slapping them with it. 😉

Just as many reporters aren’t mentioning Microsoft’s history, I don’t think most customers are going to remember .lit and MSReader.

What were those?

Back in 2000, Microsoft released software for reading e-books, MSReader (the book format was .lit). That was seven years before the first Kindle release. It was one of the big formats at the time, and people had faith in Microsoft.

In 2011, four years after the introduction of the Kindle, Microsoft killed MSReader, which sort of stranded people who had purchased .lit books (although they still worked…while you had software with which to read them. Some people converted them to other formats). That left a sour taste for some customers…but I don’t think that’s going to have an impact on the new implementation (which I do think is likely to be real).

If we ignore the past and act like Microsoft is just getting into the e-book market, do I think this will be a success?

Sure…as long as their expectations aren’t too high.

Basing all this on that MSPowerUser report (which I recommend), Windows 10 users will buy books just like they buy apps, videos, and music. There will be a book section. You can buy it right there…and read it in Microsoft Edge (their newest browser), which has EPUB support.

Books shown in the story are from tradpubs (traditional publishers), and include current well-known titles.

They also clearly show that the books will be available on both desktops and mobile (tablets).

The convenience of it is going to convince some people. I think it’s important to note culturally that it puts e-books right into the mix with other digital content. I think it helps illustrate that books are not endangered. 🙂 My intuition is that more books are being read than were being read, say, ten years ago. It may be harder to track that, since books have moved out of being probably 90% controlled by under ten large companies (there used to be “Big Six” of publishers in America, now the Big 5) to hundreds or thousands of tiny publishers (often just the author).

I don’t think it particularly hurts Amazon…it’s not going to much easier to buy a MS book than a Kindle book, even on a Windows 10 device. Microsoft is, interestingly, becoming more of a pop culture ecosystem than it was…but it doesn’t match what Amazon can do for a customer, in part because Amazon can deliver “diapers and windshield wipers”.

One interesting thing: I saw right off a commenter asking if Cortana (Microsoft’s digital assistant, like Siri/Alexa/OK Google) will be able to read the e-books…the way that Alexa can read Kindle store books (unless blocked by the publisher) and play Audible audiobooks. That wasn’t apparent.

Looks like we are likely to see this in April of this year.

Speaking of books still being part of our lives, the TV network Nickelodeon has just introduced

Nick Jr. Books at the Apple Appstore

This looks like an interesting implementation. Part of it is including tips for parents…for example, book club type questions you can ask after your child reads a book.

Interestingly to me, this is not a subser (subscription service)…it’s a “piece purchase” plan, where you pay for each book. You do get three books for free when you first get the app, but that’s an incentive, not a pattern. I saw a concern expressed about that by a commenter…who thought $2.99 was too much for a book. I think subsers are particularly good for kids…many kids read very quickly, and they may have diverse, fickle, and unpredictable interests. 😉

Books are interactive, and can be read offline. There is a reward system (badge style), and overall, it appears to me that they have been thoughtful about this.

It isn’t currently in the

Amazon Appstore (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or, for that matter, at Google Play.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be there eventually…despite what some people say, Amazon has always carried (some) competitors’ apps in their appstore, including Netflix and Hulu.

I think reading (yes, book reading) is alive and well…and likely to actually be growing.

What do you think? Are more kids reading…and more adults? Will five-year olds now be reading more at 25 than 25 year-olds now? How about at sixty-five? Will you use Windows 10’s new e-bookstore? Do you remember MSReader, and if so, does that affect your feelings about the new store? What about piece buying versus subsers for kids? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

4 Responses to “The next chapter in Microsoft and e-books”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Well, I commented on this on a couple of mainstream tech blogs — so I’ll add my two cents here as well 😀

    In a word I think Microsoft is nuts. The problem is going to be content. As I understand it, MS will only be offering content from traditional publishers. That means that most of the indie market won’t be available.

    Of course they could do a distribution deal with Amazon, but given their past history, I don’t see that happening.

    It also seems that books bought from the MS eBook store will only be readable from their new Edge browser. So far there is no indication that MS intends to develop a dedicated eReader app.

    Since all of this is based on a single source, there’s no real sense that this is anything other than a rumor.

    Apparently they will only be supporting the ePub format which leaves a lot of the Amazon community out of the calculation.

    I happen to be a bit of an MS partisan (and a former MS employee), but as things stand now with the admittedly sketchy information we have, I just don’t see any rational rationale for this.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    The latest fast ring insider build (15014) actually now contains the whole book thing — so it’s no longer a rumor — it’s a thing (:D).

    The Edge hub now contains an entry for “Books” that you can use to see what books you’ve bought from the MS store. There is a button to buy books which opens the Windows store app on their books landing page. Right now the content is very thin (in the Science Fiction category there are less than 20 titles), but not necessarily unexpected in an early test build.

    Have not checked the publisher sources of the available titles yet.

    I still think MS is massively deranged (:grin).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Thanks for the report! If you can check the publishers, I’d be interested.

      The derangement is going to depend on the risk…it might be much lower than is at first apparent.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Oh, I agree that’s there’s not much risk here for MS. The book reading facility in Edge uses Edge’s already existent “reading view” which strips off ads, and the left & right bars you see on most web pages these days. So MS is not really incurring much incremental development expense for this — it’s just a part of the normal ongoing evolution of Edge.

    Reading view used to scroll vertically — it now scrolls horizontally which I think has to do with the book thing.

    In addition to ePub, Edge will also support PDF’s — so it might be a useful place for technical books

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