Microsoft and Nook redo their agreement; no Microsoft e-reader in the works

Microsoft and Nook redo their agreement; no Microsoft e-reader in the works

Summary: It looks like the Nook Windows 8 app may be superseded by a Microsoft reading app. But the planned Nook Windows Phone app is seemingly tabled.


On March 10, Microsoft and Nook Media updated their agreement forged two years ago, according to a new 8-K filing by Barnes & Noble.


Under terms of the amendment, Nook Media is allowed to discontinue distributing the Nook Windows app and to cease work on its Windows Phone app. Ouch.

There seemingly is a replacement app coming for the Nook Windows app, however. It is rather confusingly named "Microsoft Consumer Reader."

This is not a dedicated e-reader, I hear from my sources. (Such a device from Microsoft has been rumored in the past). Instead, I think this is just the name for one of Microsoft's coming e-reading apps.

There seem to be at least two of these apps in the works. The Microsoft  Office Reader app, which company officials showed off last year at an employee meeting, will provide users with access to digital content, PDFs and textbooks, according to leaks. 

The Xbox team also is believed to be readying a reading app. It's not clear whether this is the same or different from the Office Reader. 

In at least one -- and maybe both Readers -- Nook will likely be providing access to some of the digital content.

It's a good bet that a version of this Microsoft Consumer Reader will be available on Windows Phone, too. See this tweet from Nook Customer Care (via @mikebaz). 

Update: That tweet seems to have been deleted. Here's what it said:


I asked Microsoft what the "Microsoft Consumer Reader" is and was told by a spokesperson: "We are always looking for ways to evolve and innovate on our app experiences for customers. We have nothing further to share at this time."

Here's exactly what the 8-K says:

"Pursuant to the Amendment, NOOK Media LLC (“NOOK Media”) and Microsoft agreed to co-branding within the Microsoft Consumer Reader for reading content delivered by NOOK Media. The Amendment also provided that subject to certain conditions NOOK Media would be permitted to discontinue distributing the NOOK Windows app and will cooperate in good faith with Microsoft to transition users to the Microsoft Consumer Reader. Microsoft and NOOK Media also agreed to updated revenue sharing to address this possibility. The Amendment also permits NOOK Media to cease efforts with respect to a Windows phone app."

The two companies have also updated their revenue-sharing terms as part of this amendment, but aren't disclosing the particulars.

In April 2012, Microsoft invested $300 million in a new Barnes & Noble subsidiary, initially known as Newco, and later renamed "Nook Media." Nook Media is the part of B&N that made Nook readers and also included the digital/College businesses from Barnes & Noble. The agreement was part of an Android patent-settlement dispute between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble.

At the time of that announcement, it seemed a Nook Windows Phone app was definitely going to figure in a big way.

So it's now looking like Microsoft's $300 million investment is going to end up being all about Nook digital content. And that's about it.

Topics: Windows 8, Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • No Nook Reader app for Windows? At all?

    Is there any word on guaranteeing the books I've purchased already will continue to be accessible by this new Microsoft app? It sounds like Microsoft is taking over the responsibility for developing Windows/Phone/RT apps that access a user's Nook library and allow one to purchase new titles rather than Nook Media developing the app. In return Microsoft would share in the profits of books sold. Does that sound about right? If so, I'm okay with this.
  • Confusion

    This sounds like a big ball of confusion. No Nook App update for Windows, but a complete rename and a new app? Trying to read books on an Xbox? Still keeping the nook hardware rather than pushing surface?

    Why would anyone want this over a Kindle?
    • I"ll tell you why..

      ...because the Nook HD and HD+ are as good as a Kindle with a simpler interface and free help in person from a real person at any B&N Store. Nooks arfe not iPads and do not try to be, but they are a tremendous bargain in the android tablet world.
    • Re: Confusion

      Let's turn your last question around - why would anyone want a Nook?
      Crashin Chris
  • Microsoft and Nook redo their agreement; no Microsoft e-reader in the works

    I'll take the wait and see approach to this. No Nook reader app for Microsoft Windows is a bit disappointing but if they are in the works of coding something better then I will wait and see.
    • A "bit disappointing" from you, Loverock, is a truly harsh condemnation

      against a Microsoft business decision stated by anyone else! I can't recall the last time you posted even a hint of a negative opinion regarding an event involving the Microsoft ecosystem. We'll done.
      • Lets look at the big picture

        If they cancelled the nook reader because they are working on something else (a better app) then I'm all for that and it would make sense. But given there isn't a lot of details about the agreement I will have to wait and see.
  • Confused and Sad

    I've been a big Nook supporter since the original eReader device and the simple touch. When I decided to move on to a Windows RT tablet. The Nook app's availability for Windows 8 was one of the reasons I chose the RT device. As a brand, Nook has a following. "Microsoft Consumer Reader" does not.

    It will be interesting if the Nook apps for IOS and Android will also get the catchy "Microsoft Consumer Reader" name or if they will keep the Nook branding.

    I'm sad that this will turn into another name recognition fiasco.
  • Clarity

    There are two different things that were covered by the deal Microsoft did:

    1) B&N as a supplier of digital content to Microsoft
    2) B&N as a supplier of client reading software for the Windows and Windows Phone platforms

    The change is that Microsoft is no longer interested in #2 and is leaving it up to Nook Media to decide if they want to provide Windows and Windows Phone clients. The contract required them to do so, now it is a business decision on Nook Media's part alone.

    There is NO change to Microsoft's access to the Nook digital media content. Nook content will be readable on Microsoft's forthcoming "Microsoft Consumer Reader" app as will content from other sources. So in terms of protecting existing purchases, and future purchases as well, Nook lovers are protected and will continue to be able to utilize the Nook ecosystem.

    I think this is the result of a few trends, starting with the poor health of B&N and Nook's relative market weakness compared to the Kindle. And then continuing on with Microsoft's desire to make reading on Windows devices a first class experience. B&N/Nook is trying to cut costs and Microsoft wants to control the user experience. This agreement addresses both desires. But the ultimate reason for the original agreement, making sure Microsoft has access to a digital bookstore after Amazon became a broad-based competitor, remains intact.
  • XBOX Books

    It sounds like a Xbox Books app is in the works.
  • NOOK about to lose a customer FOREVER

    I was a loyal Nook user. We bought two first Edition Readers, then two of the smaller units with built in light, I even got a Nook HD for my wife. (Mistake)
    Since then I got an Android Tablet that has both Nook and Kindle apps. Plus my Kindle books are also on my Windows Phone. I regret getting the Nook HD, my wife likes it but can't get Kindle books on it. I would never buy a dedicated reader again. My Samsung 7 inch reads most of what I care about. And the few "enhanced" titles are not worth being in a vendor locked down tablet.
    This once loyal, and often advocating Nook Customer is now buying books on Kindle system because of the access on both my Android Tablet and Windows Phone.
    • Ken..the Nook HD has access to the Google Play store, from which you can install the Kindle App. I have the HD+ and I use the Kindle app all the time.
  • Is this where B&N is taking their digital future?

    They Nook just isn't selling and B&N can't seem to figure out what they want or can do with digital sales. It was just a few months ago that they said they were not going to make/sell tablets, but rather allow 3rd parties to "co-brand" devices for sale.

    My guess is that may have included Microsoft, but maybe not.

    Either way, I'm sure all the Nook content will come through the Microsoft app (and be available on all MS devices and maybe even Android/iOS in the future as well). Without some reliable way to sell their content digitally B&N is dead. Partnering with Microsoft on a reader app will natively put their content in front of hundreds of millions of users.

    I will miss the Nook though. We have owned every single model and they have been great. Too bad B&N didn't embrace the Google app store sooner. They might have really crushed the market a few years back if they had.
  • This sounds great.

    P. Douglas
    • Small players need good prices

      The content industry desperately needs a good subscription ecosystem with good prices, small to large players can go to monetize content.
      P. Douglas
  • The Nook app for Win 8.x

    The Nook app is the best e-reader app I've ever used, and I have a Kindle Fire HDX as well. The Dell Venue Pro 8 with the Nook app is simply outstanding. Perfect size device with a feature-rich application. Also allows for importing books from OneDrive, which the Kindle Reader doesn't for Windows. The Kindle app for Windows is a weak after-thought.

    If the MS reader is as good as the nook, I won't care a bit. For now, nothing matches the nook app for Win 8.x for any platform or device.
  • Wait wait wait wait wait and see

    It's already been 2 years since MS invested in BN, and in that time there's been no Windows Phone Nook app. Now they tell us they're no longer obligated to even try and make one, but that MS will now be providing one. So it's wait wait wait some more...
  • Why not?

    Just take over the Nook for Win app and improve it.
    • Too simple

      Just improving Win app would be too simple. This is what I foresee:
      Microsoft will sign agreement with Amazon to provide Kindle contents for Nook but it would require Nook branding on Amazon site. Amazon would not do this for free so Microsoft would pay Amazon X million a year to have Nook branded website. Few years and many millions later Microsoft would figure out that they do not need Nook at all and that it is easier just to re-sell Kindle with Nook logo on it. It would still have to pay Amazon for Nook branded website but it would not have to think what to do with $300 million investment in Nook. That investment would be written off.
      Then some dried shrimp shop in Iceland would claim that they own Nook trademark so Microsoft would have to change the name Nook to something like Microsoft Books For Consumers with Electronic Book Readers Gold and that would be it. The whole ebook adventure would quietly end few months later.

      Seriously I think that Microsoft is suffering from long term thinking when targets are moving too fast. They should get their apps in a month or two and then maybe rethink what to do few months later. Now it seems that they make plans for several years, start implementing them but everything shifts and they just have to throw half done stuff away.
      Long term planning works great in enterprise most of the time but in consumer space software is more like pop song than tool. Stuff that is cool now will be old and lame in a year or so.