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Microsoft May Buy Barnes & Noble E-Book Business



Microsoft is now exploring a complete buy out of Nook Media, the e-book business created by Barnes & Noble to compete with Amazon Kindle.

According to documents obtained by TechCrunch, after paying $1 billion to buy the company’s digital media operations, Microsoft would have its own in-house seller of digital textbooks, e-books, and e-book readers.

One thing the Microsoft wouldn’t have to integrate into its offerings would be Nook Media’s tablet division. The internal documents indicate that Nook Media already has plans to discontinue its own Android tablet offerings in 2014. Instead of selling its own branded tablets, the company has plans to partner with other device manufacturers to distribute Nook apps on their devices.

Nook HD Flaws

Barnes & Noble’s media tablet, Nook HD.

Barnes & Noble recently updated its Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets to give users access to the Google Play Store for applications and media. Previously, the company limited users to only buying content from its store. While the devices still offer access to both, it’s now likely that the move may have been less about selling more devices, and more about speeding up its closure of the tablet business for a purchase by Microsoft. Microsoft already sells two tablets of its own, the lower-priced Surface RT, and laptop replacement Surface Pro.

Read: Barnes & Noble Adds Google Play Store to Nook HD and Nook HD+

Reportedly, these leaked documents don’t indicate that the company’s e-readers, like the Nook SimpleTouch, would be discontinued. Instead, the company believes that dedicated e-readers will decline in importance as users focus more on tablets.

Microsoft first announced a partnership with Barnes & Noble on April 30th of last year. At that time, the company invested $300 million in the company, and another $180 million to create and develop content on Windows 8 devices.

If Microsoft does move to purchase Nook Media it could signal that it’s finally willing to take the e-book market seriously. Other than its investments in Barnes and Noble, the company has shown little interest in the e-book market as a whole. That’s something that it can’t afford to do any longer if it wants to be taken seriously as a consumer focused company. According to reports from the Association of American Publishers, e-books are on track to surpass physical book sales this year.

Every other major consumer electronics company offers e-books as part of their digital store including Google’s Play Store, the iTunes Store and Amazon.

The leaked documents don’t offer a timeline for when the purchase might go through, or give any inkling to how Microsoft would attempt integrate Nook Media into its digital offerings. Instead of one store front like Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft splits most of its digital offerings between its Xbox Store, and each of its platforms respective application stores.

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