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The books will stop working

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June 27 · Issue #36 · View online
iAfrikan Daily Brief
It is such a haunting phrase, in my opinion at least, the books will stop working. More haunting if you consider that I am referring to eBooks. Yet, this is exactly what is going to happen starting from 1 July 2019 if you bought any books from the Microsoft Store, the books will stop working. This is because Microsoft will no longer sell books nor support books purchased through the Microsoft Store.
If it is any consolation, Microsoft has said that they will refund all book purchases.
You might ask, why are the books disappearing if you bought them?
This is the screen you would get in April 2019 as soon as Microsoft announced that they are shutting down the Books category on the Microsoft Store. Now, the category has altogether disappeared, and starting July 2019, all the books purchased through the store will also start disappearing from devices.
Even more curious, why will “free” books downloaded through the Microsoft Store also start disappearing from 1 July 2019?
It is all because Microsoft uses DRM (Digital Rights Management) with the eBooks it sells. To put it simply, DRM allows Microsoft to restrict the number of devices that the eBook you purchase can be read on, and it also does not allow you to export the eBook and be able to read it in any other format. With DRM, Microsoft is able to (as it is the case now) specify a time period during which the eBook may be accessed. DRM has also been used with things such as digital music. It works by having code embedded into the digital media purchased to allow for the enforcement of whatever rules the platform, in this case, the Microsoft Store, wants to enforce.
Although well intentioned (to protect copyright), in my opinion, DRM makes for a terrible user experience. However, that’s a topic we can look into at a later date.
Now, reading all this about how the books will stop working you have to ask: when I purchase (buy) an eBook, what exactly am I buying if it can be taken away from me without my consent?
It appears that, in the case of the Microsoft Store, one merely purchased the right to have access to the book during a certain period of time and not necessarily take ownership of the book. This is buried in point 12 of the Microsoft Store Terms of Sale:
12. Software Licenses and Use Rights. Software and other digital content made available through the Store is licensed, not sold, to you.
However, I need to state, this is a common practice across various platforms that sell digital media. Take for instance music streaming, before it was introduced, I would have Apple iTunes and Match accounts (which I still keep and pay for) and know that the music I purchased is mine. Now with streaming, you only have access to the music during the period that your subscription is active, also, if they decide to discontinue certain albums or songs, you can do absolutely nothing about it. The same applies to some gaming platforms like PlayStation. If you are subscribed to the PlayStation Plus service, every month you get two free games (one of the free games for July 2019 is Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, looking forward to it) for set monthly subscription fee of approximately $10 (there are other benefits too). However, should you not keep you subscription active, all the games you downloaded through the PS Plus subscription disappear.
This is totally different to the physical world where buying something means it becomes your property, i.e. you take possession of it. With it becoming your property comes certain privileges such as the ability to do whatever you want with it.
So, next time you purchase any digital media on the web ask yourself: what exactly am I purchasing here. Am I buying the book or am I buying access to the book for a limited time?
Recommended
📚 Starting at the beginning of July 2019, all the books you bought through the Microsoft Store will start disappearing from your devices. This is because Microsoft will no longer sell books and has said that it will refund customers. Link
♎ Many people in the western world have come out in criticism of Facebook’s newly launched digital currency, Libra. However, they need to realize it is not targeted at them, but for people in developing countries. Link
📷 People fall for fake photos regardless of where they seem to come from. What actually helps in identifying fake photos online? Link
⚖️ Advocate Pansy Tlakula has been elected to serve on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). She will still continue to work as the chairperson of the Information Regulator (South Africa). Link
Looking Back
The late Professor Calestous Juma has had a profound impact on the fields of science and technology in Africa. More so when it comes to finding ways to use science and technology in aiding sustainable development on the continent.
Professor Juma, who succumbed to a long illness and passed away on 15 December 2017, founded the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) and served as its Executive Director until 1995. He would then be appointed Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal.
He also co-chaired the African Union’s High Level Panel on Science, Technology, and Innovation. During this period, he pushed for the creation of a system of scientific and technical universities in Africa, and for the use of technology to improve the continent’s agricultural output.
He served, and made meaningful impact, on several international organizations related to science and technology that I’d need several issues of this newsletters to cover them all. It was when he was Professor of the practice of international development at Harvard University’s Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Director of the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology, and Globalization Project that I first came into contact with Professor Juma. It is this interaction and a friendship that developed afterwards that I hope will show to you the impact he has had across the world.
Having published the inaugural Technology in Africa - 2013 Digest a year before I came into contact with Professor Juma, in 2014 I felt I could take it up a notch and use the digest (which was a hobby at the time) to highlight technological innovation in Africa but also address some of the challenges holding various countries and the continent as a whole back. I approached several publications and universities across the continent to see if they were keen to collaborate. None were keen. I then took a shot and sent a cold e-mail to Professor Juma to see if he was keen to contribute to the digest as his work resonated. To cut a long story short, not only did he agree to contribute but after reading the draft he, to my surprise, facilitate that the Technology in Africa - 2014 Digest be published by Harvard University.
Technology in Africa—2014 Digest
Mine is not a unique story of interactions with Professor Juma as many have attested to his humility and always being available to offer guidance and advice whenever possible.
His science and technology contributions were not only academic. Professor Juma helped engineer, among others, a cooking stove whose improved efficiency minimized the adverse health effects of indoor smoke. His experience with that process — users balked at the lack of smoke, which had helped them keep mosquitoes away — helped him understand the importance of “inclusive innovation.” 
Professor Calestous Juma.
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