As Barnes & Noble(s bks) struggles to remain relevant in the ebook market, it’s turning to Samsung in hopes of boosting digital content sales. The company announced a partnership on Thursday that will bring co-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook tablets to the U.S. market by early August.
While details on the tablet are relatively scarce from the announcement, this decision does appear very innovative. Samsung already sells its own version of the Galaxy Tab 4 for $200; it’s an entry level 7-inch slate running Samsung’s custom software on top of Google(s goog) Android. What exactly will a co-branded model offer to customers?
My guess: This will get the Nook branding and the freely-available Nook software pre-installed. Perhaps there will be some bonus content as well; Samsung already offers $700 worth of digital content and subscriptions for its more expensive tablets. The device will also be sold in Barnes & Noble retail stores next to its own Nook hardware.
Aside from that, however, this sounds like Barnes & Noble trying to expand its tablet line on the back of a well-known hardware partner instead of building new tablets of its own. In February, the company said it would launch a new tablet in fiscal 2015, but stopped short of saying it would build its own. Instead, the official statement read:
The company is actively engaged in discussions with several world-class hardware partners related to device development as well as content packaging and distribution.
It sure looks like one of those world-class hardware partners is Samsung.
It also looks like this partnership will cost Barnes & Noble a boatload of cash. In a 8-K filing on Thursday, Barnes & Noble disclosed details of the deal with Samsung. It will purchase a minimum of one million tablets for the co-branding effort. In return, Samsung will contribute an undisclosed amount of funding to help market the tablet.
The retail price is $199 for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4; surely Barnes & Noble is getting some sort of discount for the devices. How much is a mystery at this point, but clearly the company is serious about trying to expand its digital content sales as it’s not likely to make much, if any, profit from device sales.
This post was updated at 1:41pm PT to reflect Barnes & Noble’s purchase commitment for Samsung tablets.