Shares of Barnes & Noble fell sharply Thursday after the New York-based company posted a $6.6 million loss in the fiscal second quarter due to sagging book sales. The loss was 17 cents a share.

Barnes & Noble shares closed at $14.59, down 16.34 percent.

The net loss was less than the $12.6 million loss posted in the year-earlier period. However, analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the company to turn a profit of 3 cents a share.  

Revenue decreased 0.6 percent in the quarter to $1.89 billion. Retail sales fell 1 percent to $918 million as physical book sales declined. However, the company was able to offset some of those losses through sales of its Nook e-reader.

Nook sales jumped 85 percent to $220 million, on a comparable sales basis. The company is expected to sell millions of new Nooks in the third quarter, CEO William Lynch said in a statement.

This growing base of customers buying digital content from Barnes & Noble will continue to position us as one of the fastest growing companies in this exploding digital content market, and we project this will generate significant returns on our investments for years to come, Lynch said.

The Nook Tablet became available in stores last month. Although people are buying them in droves, Barnes & Noble faces heavy competition from both Amazon and Apple, as those two companies have had considerable success selling the Kindle Fire and iPad 2, respectively.

Retail sales could have been worse if it weren't for the liquidation of Borders's stores. Borders began a mass liquidation of stores earlier this summer and went completely out of business in September.

Barnes & Noble College, which operates more than 600 bookstores at U.S. colleges and universities, reported sales of $768 million, a decline 4 percent compared to the year-earlier period. The sales decline was attributed to students moving away from textbook sales to textbook rentals.  

Although online sales couldn't completely revive Barnes & Noble's fortunes, sales at BN.com were $206 million, up 17 percent compared to the year-earlier period. The company attributed the sales increase to the growth of digital sales content and Nook sales.

This story has been updated to state the closing share price of Barnes & Noble.