Shorter version of my long post: If ebooks were to be actually
free for publishers to produce, all they'd have to do is set up a script to automatically accept all submitted manuscripts, send a standard electronic rights contract for the author to sign, and then 'publish' the book online. They could automate the whole thing, including a tag, 'unedited manuscript', so readers know what they're getting. Throw on a default book cover: author / title of book, black on white, in Times New Roman, font size 24. Trust the author to format the book readably. The entire process would be near instantaneous, and practically free to the publisher. (Not quite free, since there are some server costs).
Result: Amazon, etc. are DROWNED in unedited manuscripts, straight from author to reader. It becomes impossible to find anything decent to read, aside from a pitiful few books that somehow get a bit of online attention, mostly because their authors are either extremely savvy marketers, or incredibly lucky.
Is that really what readers want?
(I think it was TIME magazine that ran a survey a few years back, that found that about 70% of Americans planned to write a book before they died.)