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In-App Purchases on Barnes & Noble's Nook: Will It Matter?

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On Monday, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) subsidiary Nook Media announced that it will soon bring in-app purchasing functionality to the company's Nook devices, thanks to a partnership with privately held mobile-payment provider Fortumo.

Wait, they didn't already have that?
To be sure, for many folks who've never used a Nook tablet, in-app purchases seemed like a foregone conclusion for a serious device hoping to compete in today's crowded market.

After all, both's (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) Kindle Fire and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhones and iPads have long used in-app purchasing as a way to not only draw in new developers through the promise of additional revenue streams, but also to supplement their own coffers through profit sharing arrangements. As a reminder, Apple and Amazon get to keep 30% of every in-app sale from the devices running their respective platforms. 

With this in mind, it's no wonder Barnes & Noble has struggled to turn a profit from its Nook division, even after the huge confidence booster in the form of a $300 million infusion from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , which helped form Nook Media in 2011.

In fact, the struggling bookseller fell more than 6% in a single day last month, when it reversed its previous assertion that Nook revenue would be at least $3 billion this year. As a result, Barnes & Noble also stated that its 2013 EBITDA loss from the Nook business will probably exceed even the $262 million loss it suffered last year.

How much longer can they keep this up?
Then again, core sales in Barnes & Noble's retail business took some of the sting away by actually exceeding their expectations in the most recent quarter, contributing to a 7% year-over-year growth in EBITDA. What's more, Nook media is still managing to finance itself and had around $240 million in cash remaining as of last month. In addition, Microsoft's stake in the new company also included $180 million in revenue-sharing payments over three years as well as $125 million to help finance the Nook's international expansion.

Can this move effectively supplement Barnes & Noble's efforts to right the Nook's wrongs and -- most importantly -- slow Nook Media's cash burn long enough to help the segment actually turn a profit?

Foolish final thoughts
Color me skeptical, but I'm not particularly optimistic for Nook's future prospects, especially given the fierce competition it faces from the superior product ecosystems at Amazon and Apple.

When the rubber hits the road, then, I'm still convinced it's only a matter of time until Barnes & Noble runs out of gas.

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