I don't want to defend publishers "in this day and age"; however, some context is necessary. IAAS, but history plays a big part. For a long period of time in the US, authors of original and controversial works were not only unable to publish because they didn't have the means, but those that did were ostracized and in some cases persecuted for doing so. Publishers have had a large role in making good literature available to common people, and I do believe that is still true. Corporate publishers, however, are different, and have very different goals.
Full disclaimer, I volunteer at a cooperatively run bookstore in MPLS, Boneshaker Books. And I'm not trolling. The guys who put out Slingshot, for example, are publishers. And if you look at the major publishing companies, they all sort of started out in the same way, but they 'capitolized'. In the end, I think they lost out. Try and ride your bike across the country and wind up at harper collins guy's house hungry and tired, you'll be treated like a criminal. Slingshot guy's house, you'll be treated like a friend. Millions of dollars might not ever be made, maybe they will. But making friends with a similar minded stranger will be a friendship that goes beyond those limits. And everyone will still keep writing.
Publishers once helped,
ideas spread, knowledge grow, but,
now U.S. is tough.
Disclaimer, I volunteer at a collective and I like riding bikes. I also run a legal business, it can be hard to keep perspectives straight between the cultures. I like writing bad slashdot comments and haikus to get my thoughts out.