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NEW YORK – Barnes & Noble hopes to survive by splitting in two.

The largest U.S. brick-and-mortar bookseller, beset by tough competition from online retailers like Amazon and discount stores like Walmart, said Wednesday that it plans to split off its Nook e-reader division as it looks to boost shareholder value.

The company’s retail business, which has been outperforming its Nook unit, includes its bookstores and BN.com businesses. Nook Media, which counts software company Microsoft Corp. and educational book publisher Pearson Inc. among its investors, houses the digital and college businesses of Barnes & Noble.

CEO Michael Huseby said in an interview with the Associated Press that the separation is the best option for shareholders.

“The businesses can achieve a more favorable capital structure and also operate at a higher level” if they are separate, he said.

Barnes & Noble spent years investing heavily in its Nook e-book reader and e-book library, but they struggled to be profitable. In December, the company said it was evaluating the future of its tablets, but it still offered a new nontablet e-book reader during the holiday season. Huseby said the company will continue to offer its Nook glowlight e-reader but for the most part the Nook business will focus on software and its e-book library.

The New York-based chain, which announced earlier this month that it was teaming with Samsung to develop Nook tablets, said that its board has approved the separation plans.