TechCrunch reports tonight that Microsoft is offering to pay $1 billion to buy the “digital assets” of Nook Media LLC, the Barnes & Noble subsidiary in which the Redmond company already has a 17 percent stake. The site says it has obtained internal documents detailing the potential acquisition.
Nook Media includes the Barnes & Noble e-book business and Nook tablets and e-readers, although the phrasing of the TechCrunch story is creating some confusion about what exactly Microsoft would be acquiring. Neither company is commenting on the report.
In any event, the site says the documents detail a plan to phase out the Android-based Nook tablet business by the end of the 2014 fiscal year and focus instead on the distribution of Nook content through “third-party partner” devices. Presumably those devices would include Windows-based tablets, with deeper integration than available in the existing Nook app for Windows 8.
One way or another, the deal would give Microsoft a much bigger stake in the world of digital books, creating a more direct rivalry with the Seattle region’s other tech giant, Amazon. The two companies have increasingly been competing in areas including tablets and cloud computing.
The report comes a year after Microsoft invested $300 million for its existing stake in Nook Media. As we reported this weekend, the partnership between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble so far has produced very little in the way of visible results.