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Barnes & Noble looking to sell book publisher?

The bookseller is looking for a buyer for its Sterling Publishing unit, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As more and more book buyers turn to e-readers, Barnes & Noble appears to be abandoning traditional publishing.

Barnes & Noble, the largest bookseller in the U.S., is looking for a buyer for Sterling Publishing unit, people familiar with the situation tell The Wall Street Journal. The bookseller acquired Sterling, a traditional publisher of nonfiction titles, for $115 million in 2003. Sterling boasts and active list of more than 5,000 owned and distributed titles, specializing on gardening, cooking, and crafts, as well as children's books.

A Barnes & Noble representative declined to comment.

"Sterling has a lot of specialty titles that appeal to non-bookstore retailers," Lorraine Shanley, president of consulting firm Market Partners International, told the newspaper. "In a world where the traditional book market is eroding, there are thousands of other places where you can place these books."

The move possibly signals an increased focus on its Nook e-reader devices and its battle with Amazon, which also sells its own e-readers. Indeed, the two have been locked in a bitter battle over e-book territory.

Amazon enlisted some superhero muscle recently when it inked a deal with DC Comics for the exclusive digital rights to a hundred popular graphic novels, including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Sandman, and Watchmen. That didn't sit too well with Barnes & Noble, which removed the physical copies of the titles from its store shelves, saying that it would not sell books it did not also have digital rights to.