The big picture: Microsoft may have been too late to the game when it comes to ebooks. Or maybe sales figures did not justify making any major changes to its platform that would be required by its switch to a Chromium-based Edge browser. In either case, Redmond is shutting down its ebooks division for good.
Microsoft is officially out of the ebook business. As of Tuesday, April 2, books have been removed from the Microsoft Store as the company has eliminated that category.
According to Microsoft's support page, users who have purchased books from the store have until July 2019 to read them. After that point, they will become unavailable. This includes any free ebooks that were claimed.
Redmond will begin processing refunds in early July to anyone who has purchased books. Refunds will be automatically credited to the associated payment method or will appear as a credit on the user's Microsoft Store account. No requests or other actions are necessary from customers.
Any annotations made in books will be lost after July 2019. Users who had annotations before April 2, will receive an additional $25 credit to their accounts for the inconvenience of the data loss.
"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 If your original payment method is no longer valid and on file with us, you will receive a credit back to your Microsoft account for use online in Microsoft Store."
As of today, any outstanding pre-orders will be canceled, and customers will not be charged. Microsoft recommends that customers still interested in receiving their pre-ordered ebooks should place orders with other vendors such as Amazon, Google or Apple.
ZDNet notes, "Microsoft's official reason for the move is it's attempting to streamline the strategic focus of the Microsoft Store."
The decision might also be related to the company's upcoming switch to a Chromium-based Edge browser. Edge is used to read ebooks and store user libraries. It could be that the new browser is not well enough suited for this. The July deadline may also be a hint on when Microsoft is planning to officially release the new Edge. Keep in mind this is only speculation.
It's all just as well though as Fortune reported in 2017 that the software juggernaut was having a difficult time competing with Amazon's Kindle.
Users with purchased books will soon be receiving emails with more information on refunds in the coming weeks.