TechCrunch is reporting that Microsoft is trying to buy the Nook ebook and device ecosystem — for $1 billion. According to documents TechCrunch has obtained, Redmond hopes to buy the digital assets of Nook Media LLC; that's the Barnes & Noble subsidiary behind the ebook business, as well as the Nook e-readers and tablets themselves.
The documents also reveal that the current Nook tablets aren't long for this world. They reportedly state that Nook Media plans to discontinue its Android tablets like the Nook HD by the end of its 2014 fiscal year. The focus would then shift to what is referred to as "third-party partner" devices. It's not clear what those devices specifically would be, but according to the document they're scheduled to be introduced next year. There's no plan to immediately discontinue the Nook e-readers, however; they're expected to eventually be phased out as e-readers themselves become less of a focus for consumers.
The Nook business as a whole hasn't been performing well in recent quarters. In February, Barnes & Noble announced that revenue from the 2012 holiday season was down 26 percent compared to the prior year. However, while sales of the devices themselves was stagnating, content sales were actually up almost seven percent. Given that fiscal performance the move away from hardware doesn't come as a total surprise; in fact, rumors surfaced in February that the company was planning on moving away from its own hardware and towards licensing.
According to TechCrunch, the documents list the valuation of Barnes & Noble itself at $1.66 billion. While Microsoft's offer is an immense number, it would actually represent a tremendous dip: when Nook Media was first formed, it was valued at $1.7 billion. Microsoft already owns a 16.8 percent stake in the company, but in many ways taking it over would make sense — giving Redmond full control over an immense digital content library as it continues to battle it out with Amazon and Apple.