Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

Microsoft's eBook Store is Closing Its "Doors"

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Microsoft's eBooks, from Microsoft's once-upon-a-time bookstore website.

We have heard so many times about booksellers closing their doors, often the victims of new technology. Who needs paper when electrons arrive instantaneously, the choices virtually unlimited? The most valuable books, those antiquarian and rare, are usually free electronically, their copyrights long expired. So, here is a case of turning the tables. An eBook store is closing its "doors." It's not just any bookstore. It comes from one of the most prestigious names in technology - Microsoft. Your little corner bookshop may still be open, but the Microsoft eBook store is going out of business.

 

That sounds like an earth shattering event, at least until you ask the next question - Microsoft has an eBook store? That's the problem. Last I looked, Microsoft had again become the most valuable company on earth, its value approaching $1 trillion. Its value had inched past both Apple and Amazon (though that might have changed by the time you read this). Both of those companies also sell eBooks, lots of them, very successfully. Amazon was born a bookseller, and Apple's loyal audience will buy anything they sell. Microsoft, sadly, has no such history, no such passionate following. They mostly sell software and cloud services, lots of it to enterprise customers. Retail consumers buy their software grudgingly because they have to. Microsoft may be unloved, but there is no realistic alternative. It dominates its fields, but books isn't one of them.

 

They opened their eBook store just two years ago. It was barely a toddler. Actually, this was their third such store, after two earlier attempts failed. Perhaps three strikes will deliver a message. Microsoft just isn't adept at consumer retail. This one was almost doomed from the start. It relies on reading books through their Edge browser. Once upon a time, Microsoft also dominated the web browser field with their Internet Explorer. It became balky and unsafe and Microsoft finally replaced it with Edge. It was too late. Google's Chrome, followed by Firefox, controlled the market, with Opera having a good share in Europe. Edge never got above slightly over a 4% market share. It even trails its own obsolete Internet Explorer. What are the opportunities for selling books when 96% of the population can't read them?

 

There is one major difference when an eBook store, at least one that provides streaming books, closes vs. a traditional print book store. When the print book store closes, you get to keep the books you bought. Not so with Microsoft eBooks. They stream the books to you on demand, or at least they did. Once the store closes, they will stream no more. You will still be able to read your books until sometime in July when it officially closes down. After that they are gone. Once the electrons stop flowing from Microsoft, and they will in July, your books have passed on. No ashes, no dust, not even hibernating electrons. They are gone.

 

At least Microsoft is being reasonably fair. They are refunding customers what they paid for their eBooks. Those who took advantage of the capacity to make margin notes in their books will get an additional $25. The books themselves can be electronically replaced from another vendor. Your margin notes, well, let's hope you didn't have more than $25 worth of them. They will be lost forever. Or, here's an idea. You can copy them down, using an old fashioned pen and paper. That technology still works. But act quickly. July is coming soon.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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