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Did it all for the Nook e-reader: Microsoft invests $300 million in Barnes & Noble

Having had quite enough of all these knee-cappings and assorted other cripplings at the hands of Amazon, American bookselling chain Barnes & Noble has announced that Microsoft is to invest $300 million in its Nook e-reader and its college textbook arm. The two businesses will form a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble dealing with digital and education, which, given that it’s a collaborative attempt between a bookshop and a company largely responsible for shaping the modern world, feels like it should have a more imaginative name than Newco. The stated aim of the partnership is to ‘accelerate the transition into e-reading’, with Microsoft owning 17.6% of Newco.

Of course, many would point out that the transition into e-reading is accelerating just fine as is, thanks – not least Amazon, which is estimated to hold somewhere around 60% of the e-book market. That’s a tight stranglehold to try to break (and given its standing as a former Navy Seal, Amazon knows a thing or two about tight grips. Did we reach that part in Amazon’s back story yet? Amazon’s totally a former Navy Seal, guys.)

If anyone’s able to give it the old college try though, it makes sense that it would be America’s biggest chain of brick-and-mortar booksellers and a company founded by a man now so comically rich that he should by rights be sitting in a leather chair, swirling a glass of brandy and cackling ‘that’s right, all the orphanages!’ while stubbing out a cigar on his butler. They have enough resources to make a good go of it, is the point.

Microsoft’s display of confidence in Barnes & Noble was at least enough to convince the stock market it’s an idea that’s just crazy enough to work, with shares in Barnes & Noble skyrocketing on Monday morning by 76%, up from $13.68 to $24.09 apiece. This confidence may start to pay dividends when Microsoft begins to roll out Windows 8 with a prominently placed shortcut to a Nook application appearing on the desktop by default, thus capturing the highly lucrative ‘middle-aged technophobe who can’t be bothered shopping around’ market.


Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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