Old-school book readers are facing a new worm on the hook to bait them into crossing the digital divide.

TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid has unearthed a targeted Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) promotion that offers select customers a shiny new Kindle with a money-back guarantee if they don't love it. The meaty morsel here is that recipients can keep the $259 e-book reader, even if they ask for their money back.

Now, before you begin thinking that the leading online retailer has gone off the deep end, let's break down why this is a brilliant move by Amazon.

  • The offer, apparently, is only going out to folks who purchased a lot of physical books from Amazon.com last year. In other words, Amazon is hoping to replace the typically subsidized shipping of marked-down books with higher-margin reads that it can deliver digitally.
  • Despite the temptation of asking for a complete refund, I'm guessing that most of these loyal Amazon customers would feel wrong about requesting their money back -- yet the generous offer of checking it out will be difficult to refuse.
  • Targeting only frequent readers should result in a heavy volume of purchases for e-books and digital newspaper and magazine subscriptions, even by those who decide to keep their "unloved" Kindles for free.

In a nutshell, it's a brilliant campaign in a desperate disguise. It's probably not a coincidence that the promotion ends on Monday night -- just two days before Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to introduce its game-changing tablet computer.

The Kindle maker has been able to fend off Sony (NYSE:SNE), Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), and smaller e-book competitors in the quest for e-book reader supremacy, but Apple walks on e-Ink-less water.

Amazon has been moving aggressively as the clock counts down toward Apple's announcement. It went as far as offering free overnight shipping for orders placed the day before Christmas Eve. Earlier this week, it nearly doubled the royalty to e-book authors and publishers -- probably tripping up Apple in its own negotiations with book and newspaper companies.

We have yet to establish the ceiling on e-books. Are the days numbered for real-world booksellers Barnes & Noble, Borders Group (NYSE:BGP), and Books-A-Million (NASDAQ:BAMM)? Probably not, but Amazon is clearly aiming to migrate the most voracious of bibliophiles to its digital platform. Just as Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) is sucking out the most avid -- and desirable, by advertiser standards -- radio fans from terrestrial stations, Amazon's goal is to make your local Borders a barren wasteland of casual readers who will leaf through fresh magazines and best-sellers without buying them.

Is Amazon.com crazy for seemingly giving away Kindles over the next few days? No. It knows exactly who it has in its crosshairs, and what they're collectively worth on its mantle.

Did you get Amazon's money-back offer? Share your experiences in the comments box below.

Amazon.com and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Kindle owner since 2008. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Rick doesn't own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.