I think your conception of this is interesting from a pure economics standpoint, but it's a little off from how publishers are actually viewing the situation.
Fair enough, I'm not an author or a publisher, so I don't know how they really work. It is the model movies use. Theater release (in fact in 4 different runs), Cable TV release, DVD priced to rent, PPV release, DVD priced to own. Oh, and digital downloads are in the mix somewhere. Foreign and domestic releases as well. All timed to try to extract the maximum revenue, all the same or nearly the same actual product.
I don't believe that there's as smooth or continuous a scale of when readers want to read something as you suggest. People either want to read it right away, or they'll read it when they get around to it.
I'm not so sure. When I get to the end of a book I like, if it is part of a seres I'll look at the next book. If it is a hardback I make a choice about buying it now at that price vs. reading something else now and checking back later to see if it has hit paperback. If I like the book enough (or the ending was enough of a clifhanger) I'm more likely to pay the hardback price.
Since I have switched to exclusively ebooks (partly because they really are more convent, and partly because I'm planning to retire to an RV) I'm less likely to pay hardback prices then I use to, but it does happen. It would happen more if the choice wasn't $30 now vs. $5 later, but $10 now vs. $5 later.
You are right that people don't have a fine grained idea of a price they are willing to pay for a given book. However if you give people a price for a book they tend to be able to very easily decide if they are willing to pay that much. Generally people are better about making a "buy/no-buy at $X" choice then a "what would you pay for this?" choice.
Most people are aware that (many) things will be cheaper if they wait ("wait for a sale, those things always go on sale"... "new movie for $30, or I could wait two months and I bet it will be $10", "new high end laptop now, or next years mid range"), but they still buy stuff now when they feel like it. The interesting question is how transparent can you make the "price decay" part before people stop being happy when they get something for the price they want, and start being resentful when they pick their price (or decided to wait).
Yes if you drop prices week by week some people will wait until next week. You may need to make the process a little more random. Or you may find that it really works just because you pick up a lot more sales somewhere in the middle of the curve that otherwise waited for paperback prices.
Unfortunately as long as it is "might be better", "could get higher margins", and even "could get higher margins AND more total sales" publishers will rightly say "um, dude, we have a book publishing model that makes money why do you think we want to experiment with it?". They are totally correct, I find the problem space interesting, and would be pleased to come out with a better book market to buy stuff from, but at the end of my day my paycheck comes from outside the book industry, and they have a paycheck that comes from entirely within it. It would be insane to just tinker with stuff because it "might" get better since it "might" get worse, and it isn't too badly off just now (note that is books, not newspapers or magazines).