Microsoft has announced that it will be discontinuing Microsoft Reader. If you go to the main Microsoft Reader website right now, you’ll see a short message.
It says: “Microsoft is discontinuing Microsoft Reader effective August 30, 2012, which includes download access of the Microsoft Reader application from the Microsoft Reader website. However, customers may continue to use and access the Microsoft Reader application and any .lit materials on their PCs or devices after the discontinuation on August 30, 2012. New content for purchase from retailers in the .lit format will be discontinued on November 8, 2011.”
Why? … My Opinion
This is a result of the ebook industry growing and developing. eBooks have been around for many years, but have grown in popularity over the past few. During that time, e-Ink e-readers have become very popular, and now tablets seem to be taking it to the next step. These devices use PDF and ePub files, except for the Kindle, which uses its own special format.
Before this surge of e-reader and tablet usage, ebooks were generally read on computer screens and PDA-style devices like older Palms and Pocket PCs, along with some older e-readers like the Franklin eBookMan and Gemstar eBook. After smartphones became available, some folks with a pioneering spirit read ebooks on those small screens. During this time there were many ebook formats available, and Microsoft Reader one was one of those. It was mostly used on Windows PCs and Pocket PCs (which later became Windows Mobile).
I always liked Microsoft Reader as an ebook format. It provided a much more “book-like” feeling than PDF files. The design of the reader, the color of the pages, the Clear-Type of the text, all made the reading experience feel like a paper book.
But now we have e-Ink e-readers like the Nook, Kobo, BeBook, Sony Reader, etc, as well as tablets. Microsoft Reader can not be used on any of these devices, and as a result, fewer and fewer people have been using Microsoft Reader. My understanding is that Microsoft only made money on Microsoft Reader ebooks when they were sold with DRM. They were paid a small percentage of each sale for the use of the DRM technology. It is likely that this just became too low that developing new versions of Microsoft Reader and providing support for it no longer made any sense.
How will this affect ebook users?
Their official message pretty much tells you everything you need to know. You will be able to download Microsoft Reader until August 20th, 2012. That means you have a year left to download it if you need to.
You will only be able to buy new Microsoft Reader ebooks through November 8, 2011. I suspect that book publishers will immediately stop publishing their books in Microsoft Reader format. I certainly would if I were a publisher. No need to create content in a format that will soon be completely obsolete. Likewise, my guess is that ebook retailers will start phasing out the format very quickly, especially if there will be no new content published.
So what does that mean for you if you currently have ebooks in Microsoft Reader format? My recommendation is to make sure that you download the latest version of Microsoft Reader so that it will last as long as possible for you. If you need to re-download any of your past purchases, do that right away before the option is no longer available. Then, make backups of the files.
Be aware of DRM. If you had to activate Microsoft Reader with a Passport or Windows Live ID, that means that you won’t easily be able to copy the files from one computer to another. Make sure that you’ve got all of your computers and Windows Mobile devices activated with the same Windows Live ID. That will increase your chances of being able to use the ebooks on each of your devices. You could even make a small notepad .txt note with your Windows Live ID (and password, if you want) and store it in the same folder where you store your Microsoft Reader ebooks, just to make sure that you remember. Take care of this long before the end dates arrive.
I view this as a good sign. It means that the ebook industry as a whole has developed far enough that one of the mainstream formats has dropped away. This means we’re closer to a universal ebook format, which will make life much easier for users.
This question regarding whether ebooks are printable or not seems to have become less of an issue over the past year or two, as more ebook reader devices have become available and as they have become more popular. Before that, ebooks were being used on the computer more than they are now. Also, people would often purchase an ebook with the intent of downloading it to their computer and then printing a copy.
Personally, I think that’s pretty silly. I am guessing that the idea behind this method is that you could buy an ebook and print it faster than you could buy a paper book and wait for it to be delivered. But when you consider the cost of printer paper and printer ink, I don’t think it makes much sense.
Another situation that might lend itself to printing an ebook is when an independent author has self-published his/her book as an ebook, but it’s not available as a paper book. In that case, a person might be interested in the content of the book but not want to read it on a screen. In this situation, printing an ebook makes a little more sense, but it still seems like way too much trouble to me.
The majority of ebooks that you’ll buy are not printable at all. Let’s consider each popular ebook format separately:
Kindle AZW Format:
I don’t own a Kindle or use Kindle ebooks (I have a BeBook Neo) so I’ve never tried to print a Kindle ebook. However, I searched Amazon’s Kindle Help section and I couldn’t find any information about printing at all. This leads me to believe that Kindle ebooks don’t have a printing function. Since they are designed to be read on Kindle devices, or other Kindle apps for your computer or mobile devices, it makes sense that a printing function would not have been built into the software.
Microsoft Reader Format:
Microsoft Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Microsoft did not build a printing function into the software.
Mobipocket Reader Format:
Mobipocket Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Again, Mobipocket did not build a printing function into the software. This makes sense because even though Mobipocket ebooks can be read on a Windows PC, they were primarily designed for reading on mobile devices like Blackberrys, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, etc.
Palm eReader Format:
Again, same story. There is no printing function because this software was designed to be used on mobile devices.
EPUB ebooks are printable by default. If the EPUB file is being protected by DRM, such as with Adobe’s Content Server DRM, then the publisher of the ebook can disable the printing function. If you’re not sure whether this has been done, it’s safest to assume that you won’t be able to print the ebook. Don’t buy an ebook with the intention of printing it if you’re not sure whether you will be able to print it.
PDF is the most likely candidate for printing, but you still have to make sure that printing hasn’t been disabled by the publisher of the ebook. When a PDF file is created with Adobe Acrobat, the creator of the file can change the document security so that printing is not allowed. (Other features can also be disabled, such as the ability to copy text from the document.)
Other Formats like Word, txt, HTML:
Microsoft Word files, plain text files (.txt) and HTML files are printable. But like I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t consider these files types to be real ebooks.
Should eBooks Be Printable?
My answer is: I don’t think that ebooks need to be printable. One of the main differences between an ebook and a paper book is that the ebook is not printed on paper. If you buy an ebook and then print it, you lose some of the benefits of ebooks like the fact that they don’t use up trees, and the fact that they are digital files that don’t take up physical space.
Many book publishers don’t want their ebooks to be printable because they are concerned about copyright violations. Printing an ebook multiple times with the intention of re-selling it is much easier than scanning a book and then printing off multiple copies.
There are some cases in which an ebook needs to be printable. Some ebooks contain maps, charts, or other graphics that might need to be printed. There are also ebooks that contain plays or sheet music that might need to be printed by the person who is using them. In those cases, it is important that the book publisher leave the printing function available for the consumer. But like I said above, if you are buying an ebook with the intention of printing it, check with the seller before placing your order.
In a nutshell, you can determine fairly easily whether an ebook will be printable or not if you consider the format of the ebook and whether or not it is protected by DRM. If the ebook is EPUB or PDF, it will probably be printable if there is no DRM present. If the ebook is in a format that was designed for use on e-readers or other mobile devices, then it is not printable. If you’re buying a current popular ebook from a mainstream ebook retailer, you should assume that the publisher of the book requires DRM on the download, which will disable printing in most cases.
Bottom line: If you want a printed book, buy a printed book. Don’t buy an ebook.
There are currently many different ebook formats from which to choose. As the ebook industry develops, the amount of formats will probably decrease, as some become standard and others fall away. We’ve already seen this happen to some extent with older e-readers being discontinued and their ebook formats disappearing with them.
These are the most common current ebook formats:
PDF — .pdf
EPUB — .epub
Microsoft Reader — .lit
Mobipocket — .prc
eReader (Palm) — .pdb
Kindle — .azw
There are other formats that can usually be read by e-reader devices, such as .txt and Word files, but I don’t really consider those to be actual ebooks. It’s nice that e-reader devices can display those types of files but they’re really just general text files that you use on your computer.
The best way to choose the format that’s best for you is to make your decision based on what kind of computer or e-reading device you’ll be using. Here is list to get you started:
PDF — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
EPUB — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
Microsoft Reader — Windows, Windows Mobile
Mobipocket — Windows, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Blackberry, iRex iLiad, Nokia
eReader (Palm) — Windows, Mac, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (Apple devices with Stanza)
Kindle — Amazon Kindle
You should always check the tech specs for your particular device to verify the ebook formats that it can use.
eBookMall has a useful comparison chart that shows many devices, the best ebook format for each, and some tech specs like size and weight. Also, there is a huge chart on Wikipedia that shows a comparison of devices and their supported formats.
I used to recommend that people consider whether they need to print the ebook when choosing a format, but so few ebooks are printable now that it’s almost becoming a non-issue. Your best choice for printable ebooks is PDF, but many (if not most) book publishers disable the printing function on their PDF files because they are concerned about copyright protection. In general, if you need a book on paper, it’s best to just buy the paperback.
The formats listed above are the most common that I’ve seen. If you have an e-reader that reads a different ebook format, please leave a comment and mention it. That might be helpful for others who are trying to figure out which ebook format they should use.
Microsoft Reader is a free ebook reader that you can use on Windows computers and Windows Mobile devices. Its main feature is the use of what Microsoft calls “ClearType” technology. Personally, I don’t think it looks any clearer than regular font typing, but it does make the text in Microsoft Reader ebooks look a lot more like type on paper. Microsoft Reader provides a more book-like reading experiences than other ebook software.
In this post I will be going over everything you’ll need to use Microsoft Reader ebooks successfully on both Windows and Windows Mobile. If you’re not sure whether your phone/device runs Windows Mobile, check this list of devices.
first, a couple notes
These instructions assume that you’ll be buying and downloading DRM-protected ebooks. Most book publishers require DRM on their downloads because they are concerned about software piracy (too concerned in my opinion, but that doesn’t change anything.) If you find a Microsoft Reader ebook that is not protected by DRM, then you won’t need to have your copy of Microsoft Reader “activated”. However, I still highly recommend that you follow the activation procedure anyway because it is likely that you’ll want to get a DRM-protected ebook at some point, and it’s much better to be prepared for it ahead of time.
Secondly, these instructions assume that you will be using the ebook on a Windows Mobile device. If you are only planning on using your ebook on your computer, then you can just skip the Windows Mobile instructions.
what you’ll need
Microsoft Reader on your mobile device (if you plan on using it on your device, not just your computer)
a Windows Live ID (also known as a Microsoft Passport account)
Step 1 – Get a Windows Live ID / Microsoft Passport account
You might already have a Windows Live ID. You have one if you use Hotmail or Windows Messenger. If you’re not sure whether your have one or not, especially if you’ve already bought some Microsoft Reader ebooks, make sure to check for an existing account.
This is quite important. If you have downloaded DRM-protected ebooks in the past, you will have used a Windows Live ID, whether you remember it or not. If you activate Microsoft Reader with a different ID now, you’ll lose access to those ebooks.
If you definitely don’t already have a Windows Live ID, sign up for one now.
Step 2 – Install Microsoft Reader on your computer
– Download Microsoft Reader for your computer
– Just like any other program, begin the installation and follow the on-screen instructions.
Note: You must do this even if you only plan on reading the ebook on your Windows Mobile device. Microsoft Reader will be using your computer’s Microsoft Reader activation information during the transfer of the ebook to your device.
Step 3 – Activate Microsoft Reader on your computer
After you install Microsoft Reader you will probably be automatically prompted to activate it. If you aren’t, or if you’re doing this at any other time other than right after the installation, you can activate here. Click the link that says “Activate Now!” (Microsoft requires that you use Internet Explorer for this.)
If you aren’t already signed into your Windows Live ID, you will be prompted to do so.
Note: You must perform this activation for Microsoft Reader on your computer even if you only plan on reading the ebook on your Windows Mobile device. Microsoft Reader will be using your computer’s activation information during the transfer of the ebook to your device. It will check to make sure that your computer and your Windows Mobile device have been activated using the same Windows Live ID.
Step 4 – Install Microsoft Reader on your Windows Mobile Device
You might already have Microsoft Reader installed on your device. If you do not, or if you have an old version, you can get Microsoft Reader for Windows Mobile here. That page outlines all of the compatible versions of Windows Mobile, and there are installation instructions at the bottom of the page.
Step 5 – Activate Microsoft Reader on your Windows Mobile Device
This page gives detailed instructions on how to activate Microsoft Reader on a Windows Mobile device.
Make sure to activate using the same Windows Live ID that you used when activating Microsoft Reader on your computer. If you do not, you will have a lot of trouble with transferring ebooks between your computer and your device.
Microsoft Reader ebooks come in three levels of DRM, which Microsoft calls “Sealed,” “Inscribed,” and “Owner Exclusive.”
The Sealed ebooks offer the lowest level of security. You can’t copy text from the ebook in more than about once sentence at a time, the file can’t be converted to other file types, and you can’t print the ebook.
Inscribed ebooks show the user’s name on the front cover of the ebook. This is to discourage users from giving the ebook away to others. The security features from the Sealed level also apply.
Owner Exclusive is the highest level of security. These ebooks can only be used when Microsoft Reader is activated with the correct Windows Live ID. The security features from the Sealed level also apply.
Like Adobe Digital Editions, Microsoft Reader can be easy to use as long as you follow instructions and activate the software correctly. Microsoft Reader is a good alternative to Adobe software if you’re using Windows or Windows Mobile. Adobe files are better at displaying images, charts, graphs, and other visual extras, but Microsoft Reader is better at displaying text. I’d make my format choice based on that – will you be mostly reading text or looking at visual displays?