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Book News: Barnes & Noble, Microsoft Part Ways Over The Nook

The metaphoric shadow of Microsoft passes, less hopeful than when it came.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
The metaphoric shadow of Microsoft passes, less hopeful than when it came.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Just over two years into a rocky partnership, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have decided to call it quits. The mega-bookseller announced Thursday that it plans to buy out Microsoft's stake in its albatross of an e-reader, the Nook.

Microsoft bought into the Nook in 2012, investing $300 million to earn a share of about 17 percent in its ownership. In the time since, hopes for the deal's prospects have faded. A low point came with news of last year's holiday sales, which showed Barnes & Noble's Nook division plummeting 60.5 percent from the year before,according to Publishers Weekly. In June of this year, the bookseller announced a plan to spin off its Nook unit into a separate company sometime next year — news that was greeted with cheers from investors.

Now, Microsoft will sell its stake in Nook Media back to Barnes & Noble for about $125 million.

"As the respective business strategies of each company evolved, we mutually agreed that it made sense to terminate the agreement," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

Barnes & Noble stock fell about 5 percent Thursday on news of the announcement.

The Passing Of A Poet: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson passed away Thursday at the age of 57, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Emerson won the prize in 2006 for her book Late Wife and served as Virginia's poet laureate from 2008 to 2010. More recently, she conducted research in Italy on a Guggenheim fellowship, returning to her home state to assume a post teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013.

Haymakers: This is how bad the storied feud between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal got: When Mailer shoved Vidal down backstage after a terse TV interview, Vidal parried the blow with a remark of his own: "Words fail Norman Mailer yet again."

Orwell In Prison: In George Orwell's 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London, he dove deeply into the trod-upon underworlds of both cities to examine the effects of poverty personally. But for some time now, it has been in question just how deep Orwell truly went, and how much of his stories he might have made up instead.

Well, The Guardian reports that at least one of his stories is accurate: the 1931 incident recounted in Orwell's unpublished essay "Clink," in which he baited police by being publicly drunk, drawing 48 hours in a London prison to investigate conditions there. The newspaper cites Dr. Luke Seaber, who claims to have discovered court records that offer "unambiguous external confirmation that Orwell did indeed carry out, more or less as described, one of his 'down-and-out' experiments."

Elsewhere, an essay by Robert Butler in Intelligent Life reflects on the decades that have passed since Orwell's death — decades that have been exceedingly kind to his legacy. And even as Orwell's reputation endures, readers are reminded that this is partly because there isn't just one Orwell.

"There are many Orwells," Butler writes. "The literary Orwell sits at his typewriter with a rollie dangling from his lip. The militant Orwell stands head and shoulders above his fellow anti-fascist recruits in Spain. The rural Orwell crouches down to feed a goat (he liked to lecture his less practical friends, such as V.S. Pritchett, on milking). The paternal Orwell fits a shoe on the foot of his young son, perched on his knee."

Exclusive Passages In India: Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is drawing flak from brick-and-mortar booksellers for his exclusive deal with Amazon. The deal means that his book The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years, which sees release Dec. 11, will be available only through Amazon for its first three weeks — after which other booksellers will finally get a crack at it. As The Times of India reports, the heartburn over Mukherjee's book is just one skirmish in a fight over an India's exploding e-commerce market.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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