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Microsoft Is Pressing Delete on Customers’ Digital Bookshelves

Physical books can stay on a bookshelf forever, but Microsoft's latest moves shows that when it comes to digital books, it's a completely different story.

Beginning in July, Microsoft will delete every ebook purchase ever made through the Microsoft Store, leaving customers with empty libraries they'll have to rebuild elsewhere. That also includes free ebooks.

While the books will be gone, Microsoft says it will refund customers for their purchases. Additionally, anyone who made notes in a book will receive an extra $25 credit to use in the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft first announced it was getting out the book business in April, but said it would start clearing out digital libraries in early July.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding why it's exiting the book category. It was also unclear how many people would be affected.

Microsoft, which was no leader in ebooks, faced competition from Apple Books, Amazon's Kindle store, and Google Play Books. The company still sells other digital media, including games and movies.

While someone owns a copy of a book they buy in a store, that often isn't the case when it comes to digital media. However, it's not something that many people consider when making online purchases.

A 2016 study by researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and UC Berkeley found that a majority of customers who click the "buy now" button on digital content mistakenly believe they own it, the same way they would a book or a record.

"They mistakenly believe they can keep those goods permanently, lend them to friends and family, give them as gifts, leave them in their wills, resell them and use them on their device of choice," the study says.

But the world of digital rights is of course much more complicated. And as Microsoft is showing this month, wiping out a digital library just takes a few clicks.