Buy A 1-Year Nook NYT Subscription, Get The Nook Free

In Barnes & Noble’s largest Nook promotion yet, the bookstore chain is offering discounted or free Nooks to those who purchase one-year subscriptions to the Nook editions of People or the New York Times. It’s the first time a major retailer has offered an e-reader free with a content subscription.

The promotion will run through March 9. The NYT’s Media Decoder, which announced the news ahead of the official Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) announcements (here and here), reports:

The Nook edition of People is $9.99 a month; with a one-year subscription, customers will receive a Nook Tablet, a color device with a 7-inch display, for $199, a discount from its regular price of $249. Customers who buy a one-year subscription for the Nook edition of The New York Times for $19.99 a month, which includes access to (NYSE: NYT), will receive a black-and-white Nook Simple Touch free or a Nook Color for $99.

The Nook Tablet is discounted by only $50, but that brings it down to the price of the Kindle Fire. The Nook Color is heavily discounted, by $100. The Nook Simple Touch is normally $99. The total cost of a one-year People subscription on Nook is $119.88, and the total cost of a one-year NYT subscription on Nook is $239.88.

Barnes & Noble announced last week that it may spin off its Nook business, though CEO William Lynch said in a CNBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) interview that B&N stores and Nook would “continue to have a very symbiotic relationship.” This promotion is intended to showcase Nook Newsstand, which Barnes & Noble sees as one of the fastest growing parts of the Nook business.

More significantly, the promotion opens the door for other retailers–ahem, Amazon–to start offering free or discounted e-readers or tablets with content subscriptions. Nothing was preventing Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) from doing that before, of course, but I would not be surprised to see it respond now with an offer of its own for Kindle Fire Newsstand subscribers.

It is our understanding that Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) and Barnes & Noble are sharing the cost of the discounted Nook Tablet that comes with the Nook People subscription. The New York Times says it is “not divulging terms of our agreement with Barnes and Noble.”