Microsoft has unveiled an ebook store in the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview, the first time it has dabbled in bookselling since its ill-fated Barnes & Noble Nook partnership. Beta testers will be able to purchase ebooks from the Windows store, then organize and read them in the Edge browser. "Windows Insiders in the US get to try out this experience today starting with this build and we expect to add more content over time," the company said in a blog post.
Microsoft strongly hinted at an ebook store when it added ePub support to Edge in December. Once you load up a book in the browser (either purchased at the Windows store or elsewhere), it's placed in a new hub entry in Edge along with favorites, history, downloads and reading list. You can navigate via the table of contents or seek bar, search for words or phrases, and even ask Cortana to define words, view interactive video or do other chores. The browser also lets you adjust text spacing for readability, change typefaces and font sizes, use various themes and more.
In 2012, the software giant invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble, with the idea that B&N would create Nook-type apps for Microsoft, giving it an "in" against established sellers like Apple and Amazon. However, the partnership dissolved in 2014 and Microsoft has been out of the book trade since then.
Microsoft says ebooks in the Windows Store is "just a first step towards empowering people like entrepreneurs, students, creators, educators and others to learn and achieve more," meaning it may have other educational projects in mind. Microsoft recently purchased LinkedIn, giving it access to the vast Lynda.com educational library, and as Techcrunch theorized, it may use that as a way to expand into professional training and development.