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Barnes & Noble names website head William Lynch as CEO -

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Need help financing or refinancing a home? Click here Barnes & Noble names website head William Lynch as CEO Updated  | Comment  | Recommend E-mail | Print |   By Spencer Platt, Getty Images William Lynch, the new CEO of Barnes and Noble, shows off the Nook. Read more on BKS at NEW YORK (AP) — Barnes & Noble changed CEOs Thursday, elevating the president of its website to lead the company, a surprise move that highlights the importance of digital books to the bookseller's future.

The company said former CEO Steve Riggio will stay on as vice chairman and be actively involved with the company.

New CEO William Lynch helped launch the company's electronic book store and oversaw the introduction of its electronic book reader, the Nook. The company is counting on the technology on to boost sales and ward off intense competition from online retailers, discount stores and rival e-readers such as's Kindle.

The impending launch of Apple's Ipad tablet computer is also crowding the e-reader field. Barnes & Noble, which offers its e-reader software across a host of platforms including laptops and most mobile devices, said last week it will also make it compatible with the Ipad.

Lynch, 39, has served as president of Barnes & Noble's (BKS) website since February 2009.

"In just a year, he has put our e-commerce business back on its fast-growth track and has helped us quickly establish the company as a major player in the rapidly growing e-book and digital content arena, securing important partnerships with major technology companies," Steve Riggio said of his successor in a call with analysts.

Lynch said he will work to develop both retail and online businesses.

"Although the stores will be just a part of the offering, they will remain a key driver of sales as we expand our multichannel relationships with our customers," he said during the call.

Barnes & Noble is under pressure from shareholders as sales at its stores flag. Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle has blamed company management.

In February, Barnes & Noble blocked an attempt by Burkle, whose Yucaipa Cos. holds a 19% stake in the company, to amass more shares.

Steve Riggio is the brother of Leonard Riggio, the company's biggest shareholder.

The company also promoted Chief Operating Officer Mitchell Klipper, 52, to CEO of its retail group, which includes Barnes & Noble stores as well as its college bookstores.

Last month Barnes & Noble, based in New York, said the launch of the Nook helped spur online sales, which rose 32%, but weakness at its bookstores led to a drop in profit during the third quarter.

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