Lots of good insights...maybe I can explain the idea of a "lifetime" warranty. First of all I realize I am now older enough to be in the "doesn't quite get it" group of old farts...hehehehe...but...
...YES when I buy a device for my home such as a TV, fridge, washer/dryer...etc...I do EXEPCT it to last for decades not a handful of years. I have perfectly good TV's that we are still using which are over 35-years old and not a thing wrong with them. Of course I take care of the things I own. Keep them clean at least once yearly, keep them cooled down to help with heat related probs, etc...I do not accept the marketing gimmick of constant upgrades simply because the mfg says they will not support my product.
I have 386 laptops that I still find uses for...something as simple as a print server or even file storage as a backup...I have replaced backlight tubes, resoldered power faulty Dell connectors and found replacement parts and keep them working simply because the systems are still useful. And I run them all pretty much 24/7.
As to the idea of an eBook reader device...I would think one should last for at minimum of a decade. There are no significant heat issues for a basic reader really. Heat would only be an issue I can see as the real killer. And that will almost always be due to faulty components or excessive dust/dirt accumulation internally or, of course abuse. I understand that the eink displays have a limited lifespan inherent in the current design...but, ummm...do ANY of the mfg's indicate this? How is a consumer to know? Still the lifespan of the display is a good 7-years at minimum. And with proper care who knows?
Anyway, my idea of lifetime replacement for the SAME DEVICE is easy. If well built the failure rate for the first several years should be under 5%. There are also devices which do not pass the factory "smoke test". If repaired these can form the first generation of "replacement" devices. Early devices that fail in service are already going to be repaired/replaced under the warranty. A percentage of those might actually have trivial issues that can be repaired back at the factory or farmed out.
Then is the 2nd suggestion of a discounted upgrade path is created then many of the devices that are used to trade in will be just fine with maybe some cosmetic issues and a good internal cleaning...again this can be done pretty inexpensively.
The advantage is the consumer who simply wants to have a portable reading device will have the sense it is worth investing in a library of books after buying the device. I mean, if one buys a "real" book even if dropped in the bath tub it can still be used...might be all warped but it is still readable. If a $400 reading device has the power supply go bad after 18-months people will not be happy to have to either spend another $400 or just give up on the additional $1000 worth of books bought over the same 18-months. I mean since the Kindle format is proprietary and DRM'd consumers have zero options in terms of devices. [BTW, I have NO ISSUE with DRM...sort of but that is another and overdone issue anyway..
Keeping a buyer with a working device is in the interest of both Amazon and the book publishers. A buyer who has a bad experience with a device failing or the book format changing and requiring a new device ever couple years will significantly limit the number of buyers willing to invest in a device. This is especially true as the population of the US swings to a much older average age over the next couple decades. It will mean many more people on fixed incomes who will have to insist on more value for each dollar they/we spend. And just because on can afford to buy these devices does not mean one should be stoopid about ROI for the device. [BTW, I love HarryT's idea of selling off his old devices after a year or so, getting about 3/4 of the original cost back and buying something new...works for me BUT will it work with a Kindle?...can it be resold since content is linked to the device? I dunno that part but again that is another thread...]
Try and think beyond this idea of everything one owns as being disposable...why should it be? They are only disposable because they are made in 3rd world countries in horrid factory working conditions with questionable mfg'ing practices. In other words the mfg costs are CHEAP...much cheaper then most may imagine.
And in case you have forgotten there once was a device that was completely guaranteed for the lifetime of your service...it was even an early computer device for the home...it was called a telephone. Sure you paid for it every month but would it not be logical that Amazon would add 50¢ (or whatever)/ebook to cover the maintenance issue? I can even see some "genius" adding a premium to the cost of "real" books over time.
I am sure the smart people at Amazon already have considered this idea anyway...but they are banking on the "cell phone $100/mo+cable TV for $100/mo" and a "new video game system every year just because" generation who do not understand the slimy concept of planned obsolescence to create more revenue at the price of expanding the customer base...ie...they worship at the alter of the quarterly report and nothing beyond. But books are a different animal...books have special meaning to each and every individual who owns/reads them...so most of use do not get bored with them even after reading them for the 50th time in many cases.
For Amazon to truly make a statement to the whole industry they should consider this sort of tactic...if everyone buys a Kindle simply because they know if they do not abuse it then it will always work for, call it 10-15 years...maybe after 10-years there is a flat replacement/repair fee of say $50 or, of course credit to a newer device.
I just feel it is a fair trade for the consumer surrendering the ability to sell, buy used or give away my ebooks he/she would buy as they would have been able to do with "solid" books. By basically ending the market for used books over the next decade the industry is going to create HUGE profits they never before had access to...or if they follow the forced-replacement model of the rest of the industry I doubt it will ever truly gain acceptance.
BTW, it is the whole proprietary format thing that causes concern...I mean look Sony Betamax'd themselves AGAIN I think...
Last there is nothing special about the technology in the Kindle...so there was minimal R&D to recover. Plant tooling, eh, a bit but not much...mostly it was taking existing components and putting them together. Not like they invented a whole new platform from the ground up and have $10s of millions in R&D...
Anyway those are just some of my reasons behind the thread there is no ...just to see if there are others out there who might see the idea as worthwhile...