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Barnes & Noble’s Nook outsold Amazon Kindle in March: analyst

Things may be looking up for Barnes & Noble’s Nook ebook reader, at least according to analysis by Digitimes Research. Its numbers from hardware suppliers show that the Nook outsold Amazon.com’s competing Kindle for the month of March, and accounted for 53 percent of all ereader device purchases.

Amazon has historically refused to divulge specific numbers for its Kindle sales, which leaves tea-leaf-reading analysts as one of the few ways to determine its success against competitors like the Nook.

Digitimes senior researcher Mingchi Kuo offered a few reasons why the Nook may be faring better. For one, it has the in-store advantage at Barnes & Nobles. Customers can touch and test the device in person, and the company also sales representatives on hand to answer questions. Amazon.com announced last week that Target stores will soon start carrying the Kindle, but the Nook still has the advantage of being featured in dedicated bookstores.

The Nook also had the advantage of coming out more recently — it was announced in October 2009, and started shipping out in November. The release came just in time for the holiday season, and also offered features that the Kindle lacked — like a secondary color touch-screen display, and the ability to loan ebooks to friends. In comparison, Amazon hadn’t announced any new devices since the large-format Kindle DX in May 2009. It released the Kindle 2, a smaller, updated version of the original Kindle, in February 2009.

Until Amazon releases a new Kindle, or drastically reprices the current models, the Nook is likely to continue winning out. The Nook is also receiving more new features and updates than the aging Kindle, which continue to make the device more compelling.

Then again, Amazon is spending more time developing its Kindle ecosystem by delivering apps for the iPad and iPhone that are more polished than Barnes & Noble’s — so maybe it doesn’t care as much about winning the hardware battle.

Digitimes also reports that global e-reader shipments totaled 1.43 million in the first quarter of 2010, and will hit 2.02 million units by the second quarter. Global shipments of readers in 2009 were a mere 3.82 million in 2009, and Digitimes predicts it will jump to 11.4 million units for 2010.