July 18, 2012, 11:56 AM

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble tease their digital wares for PC users

Nook for the Web is a free web service designed to draw readers deeper into Nook’s digital library.

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Microsoft Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc. launched a $300 million joint venture in April to expand the business horizons of Nook, Barnes & Noble’s electronic book reader.

But the first initiative for Microsoft and Barnes & Noble is Nook for the Web, a free service that enables readers to download six best-selling books, using any browser, to their Apple or personal computer. When Microsoft and Barnes & Noble, No. 32 in the 2012 Internet Retailer Top 500, announced that Nook would be spun off into a separate business with Microsoft (No. 74) investing big amounts of technology expertise and financial resources, the intent of the deal was to grow Nook’s base of mobile device owners and related digital content.

But by offering a free and web-based application aimed at personal computer and laptop readers, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble initially want to create a wider audience for Nook digital content, the companies say. “Nook for the Web makes it easier than ever for anyone, from Nook customers to those experiencing digital content for the first time, to access and read books online,” says Jamie Iannone, president of digital products at Barnes & Noble.

The new application initially lets users download six best sellers through July 26, including “Map of Bones” by James Rollins, “Sex and the City” by Candace Bushnell, “The Vow” by Kim Carpenter, “The Boxcar Children Summer Special” by Gertrude Chandler Warner, “Brave” by Tennant Redbank and “Perfect Island Getaways” by Patricia Schultz.

Nook for the Web also lets users utilize a realistic book-like layout, including clear page numbers at the bottom of each screen and a slide bar that enables readers to track the number of pages remaining in a chapter or quickly scroll to another section. A navigation bar also lets readers choose between eight fonts and type sizes and a single or double page layout, and rate, review and share thoughts or recommend books via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail without leaving the book.

Nook for the Web also includes a Shop Now window that provides readers access to Barnes & Noble’s content library which carries more than 3 million titles, including 12,000 children’s titles and 2,000 children’s picture books. “Nook for Web combines Barnes & Noble’s digital reading experience and Nook store to deliver a solution for readers to consume millions of titles right from their web browser,” Iannone says.

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