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Nook Media draws $89.5M Pearson investment

Publisher Pearson takes a minority stake in Barnes & Noble's digital media subsidiary. The new arrangement is geared at least in part toward online learning.

The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Barnes & Noble's Nook Media unit has pulled in a fresh cash infusion, this time from book publisher Pearson.

The two companies announced today that Pearson will invest $89.5 million in cash in Nook Media, the B&N subsidiary that oversees the Nook e-reader, tablets, and digital store. The transaction will give Pearson a 5 percent stake, valued at approximately $1.789 billion, according to Barnes & Noble.

When the deal is finalized, Barnes & Noble will own just over 78 percent of Nook Media, Microsoft will hold just under 17 percent, and Pearson will have the remaining 5 percent. If it meets certain conditions, Pearson will be eligible to purchase up to an additional 5 percent stake.

In April, Microsoft invested $300 million in the Nook unit. "With a giant like Microsoft backstopping the Nook," CNET's David Carnoy wrote at the time, "consumers may now have more confidence that the Nook platform will indeed be here to stay."

The Pearson investment is surely intended to be another shot in the arm. Barnes & Noble said in its statement today that the deal will "accelerate customer access to digital content" and "facilitate improved discovery of available digital content and services, as well as seamless access." Given Pearson's expertise in the education sector, the new arrangement is geared at least in part toward online learning.

"With this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with Nook Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students," Pearson said in a statement. "It is another example of our strategy of making our content and services broadly available to students and faculty through a wide range of distribution partners."

But Nook Media still has a lot of work ahead of it to make inroads.

The Nook devices and associated content have long been in the shadow of Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle products. Just yesterday, for instance, Chitika released results of a study from mid-December showing that for every 100 tablet ad impressions from its network generated by the iPad, 4.9 go to the surging Kindle Fire and just 0.9 to the Nook.

At the end of November, Barnes & Noble said that its Nook unit sales doubled over the four-day Black Friday weekend -- though Amazon made a similar claim about sales of its Kindle devices. (Neither company provided any hard numbers to go with the claims.)

Pearson, meanwhile, has been embroiled in an antitrust investigation in the EU over charges of e-book price fixing. Its Penguin unit in December settled a related case with the U.S. Department of Justice.