Pearson Makes $89.5M Investment In B&N: The EBook War In Education Is On

You may not know it by listening to the evening news, but there's something of a silent war ongoing in the education sector. And perhaps not surprisingly, that war involves tablets. Apple held their own live event around 11 months ago just to show off their new iTunes U and iPad education initiatives, and Amazon started years ago by introducing the (now dead) Kindle DX. But in a world already dominated by Apple and Amazon, does a name like B&N even have a chance? Evidently they do. Pearson is a major name in publishing, and it just announced a proverbial vote of confidence for Barnes & Noble by taking a 5% stake in Nook Media. That's B&N's arm that handles the Nook tablets and e-readers, and yes, education books.

All told, Pearson's making a $89.5 million investment, which values Nook Media at nearly $2 billion. Why would Pearson cough up the cash right now? Here's a quote from the company's North America CEO Will Ethridge: "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. 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.”

Clearly, the war has at least three players at this point, but we're still years away from seeing how it'll all play out. Digital textbooks have yet to be universally adopted in U.S. schools, and as slow as things tend to change in that sector, it'll probably be a good while before we know. But either way, it's going to be interesting when the gloves finally come off.