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Earnings Preview: B&N 2Q a Nook report card

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barnes & Noble Inc., the largest traditional U.S. bookseller, should give hints on how its Nook e-book reader business is doing this holiday season when it reports its fiscal second-quarter earnings before the market opens Thursday.

The company is expected to report a narrower second-quarter loss on nearly flat revenue.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Barnes & Noble Inc. faces tough competition from online retailers like Amazon.com and discount stores as consumers increasingly move away from traditional books in favor of electronic books. These factors have pushed the chain to invest heavily in its Nook e-reader and e-books and other digital content. The company now breaks out its Nook division to give a better picture on how that business is doing.

In October, Barnes & Noble closed its deal for $300 million from Microsoft Corp. in exchange for a 17.6 percent stake in the venture, Nook Media LLC, so investors will be looking for an update on that transaction.

They'll also be looking to see if there has been any improvement in revenue from stores open at least one year, as traditional Barnes & Noble stores increasingly shift merchandise toward games, toys and items besides books.

WHY IT MATTERS: Barnes & Noble's sales of books and e-books can give a hint to how well the publishing industry is doing and how it is evolving.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect a loss of 9 cents per share on revenue of $1.88 billion in the quarter ended in October.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: The company reported a loss of 17 cents per share on revenue of $1.89 billion.