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Microsoft eyes tablet lift via Barnes & Noble deal

Microsoft Corp is jumping into the fast-growing e-books market by investing USD605 million over five years in Barnes & Noble Inc’s Nook e-reader and college business, as it looks to unlock Amazon.com and Apple Inc’s grip on the exploding tablet computer market.

The move comes just six months before the world’s largest software maker is due to launch its new touch-enabled Windows 8 operating system, and the inclusion of a Nook app on Windows tablets should allow them to compete with Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

It also gives Microsoft a direct interest in electronic publishing just as the market for downloadable college textbooks starts to take off and the publishing industry undergoes a radical shift toward electronic distribution.