Barnes & Noble content and tablet subsidiary Nook Media, part-owned by Microsoft specifically to help boost content for its new Windows 8 platform, today put some of that strategy into action: it has announced that people who download the Nook app for Windows 8 will get five books and five magazines free of charge.
This is in addition to the company’s existing list of free books from its back catalog, similar to what Amazon offers on the Kindle. The Nook store currently stocks over 3 million books, comics and other reading material, which includes 1 million free books.
B&N says it is creating a “select list” of free books from which to choose, which will include bestsellers like Best American Series 2012, Blue Bloods, Hello, Cupcake!, Life of Pi and The Enemy, as well as popular magazines like GQ, Real Simple and TIME.
Somewhat annoyingly, B&N is setting up some parameters for people to take up the offer quickly. For example, Life of Pi is only available to the first 100,000 customers who download the book on the NOOK app for Windows 8. A little lame considering we’re talking here about a digital asset, not a pre-printed copy of the book, which theoretically should not “sell out.”
The deal puts a closer link between B&N and Microsoft, something the two had already been fostering through their JV and development initiatives. This includes giving users the ability to pay for items on the Nook store using their Microsoft accounts.
“NOOK is the highest-rated reading and digital bookstore app for Windows 8, and by providing bestselling books and top magazines for free, new NOOK customers can start their digital libraries with some of the best content in the expansive NOOK Store,” said Jamie Iannone, President of Digital Products at NOOK Media LLC. “With the NOOK app for Windows 8, customers get an incredible reading experience and can choose from over 3 million NOOK Books, including 1 million free titles, as well as magazines, newspapers and comics on any Windows 8 device.”
Indeed, the deal will sweeten the deal for people considering whether or not to buy Windows 8-based tablets, which reports claim have so far not been selling as well as people had hoped they would. But at the same time, it’s a way for B&N to grow its own base of users, who will hopefully return to the app to buy books once their free offer has ended.
The move comes on the heels of other free offers created by B&N as it scrambles to beef up user numbers and sales after a poor quarter, where Nook sales were down by 28%. That has included offering users a free lower-end version of the Nook, the Nook Simple, with every purchase of a Nook HD+.
There was one silver lining in those results: while device sales were not meeting expectations, digital content grew by 13%. This is where books could help save the day for B&N’s digital business.
B&N also plans to enhance those services in the weeks ahead with the launch of in-app purchases, which will finally put it in line with offerings from other purveyors of apps like Apple, Google, and, specifically, its arch nemesis in the books category, Amazon.