Remember King C. Gillette? He's the guy who came up with disposable blades for the safety razor. The razor that used them was fairly expensive, but Gillette sold them for little or no profit in order to create a continuing market for his ultra-thin stamped (as opposed to forged) blades.
With the cost of technology constantly dropping, I wonder if we'll see someone assume the same role in the E-book world. Sell the reader at little or no profit, and make the profit on content sales. This would overcome one of the main barriers to E-books via a reader: the cost of the reader.
This isn't a new idea, I'm sure. But how about implementing it this way: Publishers distribute the reader and sell the content they produce. And with a proprietary format. Which would put the publishers in a position similar to that of selling hardcopy books. The reader takes the place of producing hardcopy books.
There's the matter of DRM, which a proprietary format could take care of. Allow each E-book to be read on two or three readers, to satisfy publishers and to accommodate readers who like to loan out books. If anyone else wants to sell E-books (a distributor, for example), they would have to agree to provide readers on the same basis as the publishers.
I'm sure most publishers would prefer restricting each E-book to one reader, but they would have to permit at least two readers, in case the owner's reader breaks or is lost.
I don't see this being implemented any time soon, if ever, because it will require a significant investment on the part of publishers. And it would be a gamble.