At a time when publishers are seeing a boom in the market for electronic content, Microsoft has decided to back out of the market with the cancellation of its Reader product.
Launched in 2000, significantly before the eReader boom enjoyed by the likes of Amazon's Kindle, Zinio's digital magazine service, and the rise of Apple's iBooks, Microsoft Reader offers access to eBooks on any Windows-based device - including PDAs and smartphones - in the company's own .lit format.
The proprietary format put many off, and Microsoft found few publishers willing to partner with it. While the current library of 60,000 titles is relatively impressive, it's nowhere near the level of Amazon's Kindle Store.
As a result, Microsoft is throwing in the towel. "Microsoft is discontinuing Microsoft Reader effective August 30, 2012, which includes download access of the Microsoft Reader application from the Microsoft Reader website," the company has announced, in a terse message to the site's users.
"However, customers may continue to use and access the Microsoft Reader application and any .lit materials on their PCs or devices after the discontinuation," the company confirmed, meaning those who have built up a library of .lit titles won't be left without access. Sadly, it doesn't look like Microsoft will be offering any tools for converting the files into something more suited to a modern eReader environment like the open ePub format.
Microsoft has also confirmed that its partners will cease to offer new content in the .lit format from November the 8th, although fails to specify why there's such a gap between the discontinuation of Microsoft Reader and the cessation of .lit sales.
The company's exit from the market is an admission that the world of the eReader belongs to others, and an indication that Microsoft could be looking to partner with someone else - possibly named for a river in South America - to provide ebooks on its Windows Phone platform in the future.