While Barnes & Noble certainly had some news yesterday when it announced it was spinning off its Nook e-reader unit alongside a $300 million investment from Microsoft, the bookseller's CEO William Lynch had some interesting hardware news to share with Fortune in a recent interview. The CEO revealed that at least one future Nook will have built-in NFC. The details were revealed in response to a question regarding what areas the CEO felt that the the company could have done better with regarding the Nook, and Lynch said that he thought the company could improve Nook interactions in stores.
"We can work with the publishers so they would ship a copy of each hardcover with an NFC chip embedded with all the editorial reviews they can get on BN.com."
How would the close-proximity wireless communications afforded by an NFC chip be used in a Nook? Well, Lynch says Barnes & Noble would work with publishers to get NFC chips embedded into hardcover books and in-store signage, and Nook owners would simply tap their e-readers to the books to get reviews, pricing information, and more. Beyond the difficulty of convincing publishers to add NFC chips to their books, Lynch believes that the new interactions would increase print sales. We're not convinced that it wouldn't cause the opposite effect — digital sales that cannibalize print — as these interactions would entice you with a digital "buy" button that lets you avoid the checkout counter. Lynch says "that's coming," so we'll just have to wait and see when the company "maybe" launches an NFC-equipped Nook later this year.
"We've not communicated anything [to Microsoft] related to the roadmap about any hardware collaboration on Nook."
While an NFC Nook might be news enough for one interview, there are other details to be found in the CEO's discussion with Fortune. Regarding how Barnes & Noble and Microsoft will work together on technology to improve the Nook (beyond the upcoming app for Windows 8), Lynch says that, while he isn't announcing anything today, he can see Microsoft Office integrating with the Nook ecosystem. Specifically, he said he can "imagine an integration where an information worker, student, author, consumer, creates something in Office and has it immediately published for sale through the Nook book store.
Lynch offered a bit of information on sales, as well. We have yet to see sales numbers broken down by units sold (and Lynch doesn't offer any now, either), but he does reveal that the Nook Color has been the company's best-selling Nook. Additionally, the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is performing "well ahead of our expectations."