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Amazon fingers touch tech firm

Kindle goes to the feelies?

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Amazon is reportedly buying a company specialising in touch technologies, and recruiting hard to keep the Kindle at the front of the shelf.

Touchco is a New York startup spun out of New York University to exploit "interpolating force-sensitive resistance" to create cheap multi-touch surfaces, which, according to the New York Times, has prompted Amazon to snap up the six-man company.

It's not just technology that Amazon is throwing at the Kindle though, Mary-Jo Foley reports that the company has also recruited Mike Nash from Microsoft, a man with experience of building development ecosystems, into the Kindle team.

Despite getting bigger, and going international, the Kindle is looking decidedly low-tech these days. Touch sensitivity is pretty-much standard for an eReader, and the Kindle's hardware keyboard never looked right on a book.

Multitouch makes a soft keyboard a lot easier to use, so that would be a good start if Amazon can integrate the technology into a next-generation Kindle. Still, eReaders are poised at a cross-roads right now so don't expect anything to happen soon.

Some of the competition have squeezed in a second screen in the hope of putting a little colour into their e-ink-based products, but colour e-ink is still some way off. Apple's iPad will, no-doubt, attract a lot of interest but it remains to be seen if users will really be happy reading books on a backlit screen, and Amazon might do well to see what iPads get used for with a view to emulating the more-popular applications.

If iPad users do decide e-ink is unnecessary for reading books then we can expect to see everyone dropping the technology pretty quickly, so Amazon will want to be ready for that eventuality too. ®

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