What would Microsoft buying Barnes & Noble's Nook business mean?


By Molly Driscoll, Staff Writer / May 10, 2013

Has Microsoft offered to buy Nook Media, the part of Barnes & Noble that focuses on digital products and its college stores?

According to company documents unearthed by the website TechCrunch, Microsoft is offering to purchase the digital assets of Nook Media for $1 billion. This would include Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers, e-books, and tablets.

Also interesting: according to the documents, Barnes & Noble plans to stop producing its Nook tablet devices by the end of the fiscal year 2014. Instead, the company is focusing on a plan where content produced by Nook could be accessed by users through apps on what the company called “third-party partner” hardware. The documents didn’t specifically mention Nook e-readers, according to TechCrunch. Whether this would involve Microsoft tablets such as the Microsoft Surface is unknown.

Microsoft had already teamed up with Barnes & Noble, investing $300 million in the company in April of last year and announcing that it would be working with B&N on the digital side of its business.

Neither Barnes & Noble nor Microsoft commented to TechCrunch for the article.

According to Reuters, Wall Street was obviously heartened by the news – B&N shares increased 22 percent after the report of the possible purchase was released.

What would the deal mean for each company? Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at market research firm NPD, pointed out to PCWorld that Microsoft would have a partner that would give it more entertainment content for its devices.

“It appears that Microsoft [with its rumored Nook buy] is looking for a content partner brand that they can use to help develop content opportunities beyond the movies and music they provide today through Xbox Live,” Baker said. The content with Nook could also include e-textbooks, a growing market.

However, for Barnes & Noble, Forbes writer Abram Brown said a B&N without the Nook reminded him uncomfortably of another business: the now-defunct Borders.

“Barnes & Noble would lose the unit that added attention and store traffic... and kept its stock higher,” he wrote. “It’s not a clear parallel yet to Borders, but it’s hard to ignore the comparison.”