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Sales of the Nook e-reader slow

Barnes & Noble’s digital media sales held down the company’s financial results in its most recent quarter.

Jae C. Hong /Associated Press

Barnes & Noble’s digital media sales held down the company’s financial results in its most recent quarter.

NEW YORK — Books may have a longer shelf life than expected. Barnes & Noble posted a third-quarter loss, partly because demand for its e-books and Nook e-book readers has plummeted.

The company said sales of digital media — including books, newspapers, magazines, and apps — rose just 7 percent. Sales rose 38 percent in the second quarter and 46 percent in the first quarter.

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Barnes & Noble has invested heavily in the Nook and a digital library as more readers shift to electronic books and competition from discount stores and online rivals grows.

The Nook unit has attracted investors — Microsoft owns 16.8 percent, while the UK publisher and education company Pearson has a 5 percent stake. But it has not been profitable and has fared worse than its competitors, the Kindle from Amazon.com, and the iPad and iPad Mini from ­Apple Inc. The company acknowledges it must take steps to make the Nook unit profitable, or try to spin it off.

The Nook weighed on the retail stores. Revenue in the entire retail unit, which includes the bookstores and website, fell 10 percent to $1.51 billion. But excluding Nook sales, revenue in Barnes & Noble stores open at least one year fell 2.2 percent.

The company posted a loss of $6.1 million, or 18 cents per share. Analysts had expected a profit of 53 cents per share.

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