But if anyone is still listening, it did comfort me to read through the thread on this topic over at Making Light (the home of two industry professionals) -- in general, the conversation was much more knowledgeable. And, with apologies for quoting the whole comment, comment #116 by ctate basically summarizes my deep frustration right now -- it felt good to know I'm not alone in it:
#116 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2010, 12:06 PM: I don't know how many of the participants here routinely have conversations about this stuff with folks with very different levels of knowledge about the publishing business. I've been having a sort of argument back and forth with some of my coworkers -- I work for a tech company -- and I've been stunned to see that the consensus view there seems to be "Awright! Go Amazon! Stick it to those evil publishers!" These people love their Kindles, and their initial reaction to the whole Amazon Macfail situation had a strong component of "heck yeah; ebooks should obviously be cheaper."
The frame for this view seems to be "Publishing companies should die; they're parasitic even when not incompetent, and both authors and readers will be better served when the model is fundamentally changed." My possibly-incorrect read of the proposed model is that printing and distribution go away entirely [presumably because paper books cease to exist]; authors would hire editors directly; and then once the book is written and edited the authors would self-publish through Amazon and make a lot more money doing it. JA Konrath's blog post about his Kindle sales gets cited as an example of how self-publishing is much more lucrative for ebooks than going through a publishing house. The current dependence on publisher selection to provide a quality filter will be replaced by, essentially, the consensus Amazon review [or other trusted opinion-source].
There are clearly issues with this, of course. Economies of scale; lack of bargaining power; the whole implicit assumption about the death of paper; sweeping the problems with DRM and durability and lend/resell/borrow under the rug; ignoring advertising; the helpful effect of having an established reader base vs new authors... a loooong list. But at this point I don't even know where to begin talking to people about it. Several of these coworkers have published technical books and had bad experiences with their publishers... I have a hunch that the tech-pub world is pretty different from (say) the fiction publishing world, but I don't know specifics.