It’s just a rumor right now, but TechCrunch is reporting that an Amazon promotion promises to let you keep your Kindle at no cost if you’re not completely satisfied (pictured below).

Apparently this offer is for a select few heavy purchasers of books (and may not even be a real promo), but it may not be long before Amazon is offering a free Kindle to everyone. Long term, the real benefit to Amazon with the Kindle is not hardware sales, but rather sales of digital books.

I’ve often wondered why Amazon didn’t offer a free or low cost version of the device right off the bat. Amazon could conceivably offer free Kindles to anyone willing to commit to buying, say, 1 book every month for two years. Imagine how many Kindles you’d see on the streets if that were the offer. And knowing a few Kindle owners, I’m sure the average customer would buy more than 1 per month.

With the impending release of the Apple Tablet, it seems like Amazon would be wise to consider this type of offer. It would let them establish a stronger foothold on digital books before Apple’s (or someone else’s) device really takes off.