Microsoft and Barnes & Noble: An e-book marriage

Microsoft is investing $300 million for a 17.6 percent stake in a new subsidiary that combines Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader and college bookstore businesses. The transaction, which will turn the software maker into a direct competitor of Amazon, values the Nook business at $1.7 billion—a rare bit of good news for the struggling bookseller. That’s more than double Barnes & Noble’s total market capitalization. The partners said the investment would help speed the introduction of the Nook bookstore abroad and fund research and development of new e-ink Nook readers and tablets. Microsoft announced last year it would discontinue its own e-reader app effective August 2012.

Chesapeake Energy: Getting an independent chairman

Responding to criticism from investors and analysts, Chesapeake Energy will name a new chairman from outside the company to replace CEO Aubrey McClendon, who’s giving up the title. It will also halt an incentive program that let McClendon amass personal stakes in company-operated wells. The program will end in June 2014, 18 months early, without additional compensation. McClendon, who co-founded Chesapeake Energy in 1989, used interests in the wells as collateral to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in personal loans.

Natural Gas: Frack first, report later

Under a draft rule being considered by the Department of the Interior, natural gas companies drilling on U.S. land would be allowed to wait until after hydraulic fracturing is completed to disclose what chemicals they used. An earlier version required them to submit the information at least 30 days before fracking, a mandate that the industry says could hamper production. Delaying disclosure will make it harder for homeowners to prove that drilling was responsible for tainted water, counters the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Research In Motion: Embracing virtual keyboards

Research In Motion is trying to reverse a sales slump with its new BlackBerry 10, a phone that doesn’t have a physical keyboard, a feature that has kept legions of users loyal to the Canadian handset maker. Consumers have embraced virtual keyboards: Apple’s iPhone and phones that run Google’s Android operating system account for more than 80 percent of the market. RIM is giving away prototypes of the device in an effort to persuade developers to design apps for the new operating system.

Hospitals: Paper records still rule

More than 80 percent of hospitals have yet to achieve the requirements for the first stage of a $14.6 billion federal program to spur the adoption of electronic medical records, according to the American Hospital Association. It says the target is too ambitious, adding that there’s a widening “digital divide” between large urban hospitals, which have been quicker to adopt the technology, and small rural ones, which have lagged. Hospitals are also concerned about mandates that patients should be able to view and download their medical records.

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