Service of Counting on a Brand: Bye-bye Microsoft E-Library

July 29th, 2019

Categories: Abandoned, Books, Brand Loyalty, Branding, E-books, E-Commerce, Research, Technology

How do you know you can trust a brand to keep its products in business and parts available for as long as you need them? The question doesn’t apply anymore just to major appliances, motor vehicles, furnaces, solar energy technologies and gadgets like VCRs, CDs and DVDs. The subscribers to Microsoft’s E-Library know what it’s like to be left in the lurch. I heard about their loss on NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Josh Axelrod reported “Starting in July, Microsoft will be closing its e-book library and erasing all content purchased through the Microsoft e-bookstore from devices. Consumers will receive a refund for every e-book bought.”

I read traditional books but some of my best friends rely on e-books. I’d be irritated if I’d paid for a book and was left hanging at a crucial juncture when Microsoft pulled the plug.

Garcia-Navarro interviewed Aaron Perzanowski, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, who pointed out that losing a book you’ve annotated and use in your job is more than exasperating. Think of lawyers, teachers or academic researchers who have spent time to study a book and write themselves virtual Post-It notes on manuscripts. The additional $25 refund doesn’t make this customer whole, said Perzanowski who also wrote the book “The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy.”

“In a University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Perzanowski found that users are often misled when they click the ‘Buy Now’ button, thinking that they’ve gained permanent ownership of digital content.

“‘You can go out and buy a car and you think you own the car because it’s parked in your garage,’ Perzanowski says. ‘But in reality – how it functions, who can repair it, what replacement parts are compatible with it – all of that is controlled through software code. And, so I think that line between the physical and the digital is getting increasingly blurry.’”

The culprit is a tool called Digital Rights Management or DRM software. “Your car, your smart home appliances, your home security system – all of these systems have software that allows for this kind of control over how the devices are used, and I think we’re going to see these same sorts of situations crop up in the context of physical devices that are being used in people’s homes.”

Have you lost the use of something you owned because there are no parts available to repair it or did you learn that, like the e-books you bought, you really didn’t own it at all? Do you factor in shelf life when buying things for your office or home or are you resigned to short-lived pull-by dates on almost everything but processed honey with its forever lifespan?

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2 Responses to “Service of Counting on a Brand: Bye-bye Microsoft E-Library”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    My building will undoubtedly self destruct, having been outfitted with “custom” fixtures. Sounds great until one learns that “custom” swiftly goes out of style and cannot be replaced with newer material. Because of this, abysmal problems haunt many families, and will undoubtedly reach the “lucky ones” in good time. Could be a matter of several years before we find ourselves homeless.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    While your building’s issues are far more important than what I’m about to write, my example is a microscopic example of something similar. I remember when blush makeup came in a fancy case. The saleswoman would promise that refills were available but when you’d return to the store to get one, they no longer made a refill for the shape of case you had….but if you bought THIS OTHER ONE….and on and on. Now, these products are sold in cheap plastic. The public no doubt had had enough with the other approach.

    Perhaps the board of your building wasn’t aware of the custom nature of the fixtures or thought that the replacement parts would forever be available because they’d paid extra for non-cookie cutter items.

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