Why is not everything "worth" publishing, these days? It was "worth" it for the individual to write. With cheap digital publishing/self published material, it seeems it can be. It still may not be "worh" reading, but who cares? Just like the majority of web pages out there, all of which are 'published'.
I see this on POD (Print on Demand) commercials for companies who produce the POD machines, but while I agree that anyone can produce any type of dribble they desire, once you remove the separation of published and vanity press, you now force people to like me to wade through the various new "reviewers" to figure out which ones I might believe. A publisher has a financial stake in the books they publish, while a reviewer does not. Why do trust a publisher over simple reviews? I've seen self published books on amazon, I've actually read the initial (and probably final) version of a book that looks legit, and even has glowing reviews (from personal friends and family) that would make it seem a good book. Other than it was self published by the author's own publishing company, that publishes nothing but their own crud...but it has a five star review on amazon. That isn't a publisher, but self created vanity press in disguise.
I have a couple hundred (maybe more) books on my bookshelves from ace and tor and some of the other large scifi/fantasy publishers, which speak a great deal about the quality of books they publish.
Does everyone who chooses to throw a hundred thousand words or so in a document deserve to call themselves an author? Maybe, but it would be like everyone who can copy a hello world app and compile it be called a programmer.
I don't subscribe to the concept that everything someone does deserves to be praised. Things that are done well and have value should get praise. Otherwise, what is the point of doing anything at all? Having participated and finished two novels for National writers novel month...I could say I'm an author. Being that I'd be ashamed to have anyone read that raw garbage, I believe they can wait until they get rewritten in a form that is worth reading first. Then, maybe I might be worthy of such a title. Actually, I'll feel the title is justified the day one of the publishers, that I trust to publish good books, accepts and publishes one of my own. Then it won't be me applying that title, but someone else who found my work good enough to invest in.
Publishers do more than just market a book, they filter. The cost of the book isn't the real concern for most people buying a book. (assuming there are reasonable prices for those books) My time is worth way more than the $6 paperback, or even $15 hardcover (Yes, I get most hardcovers for $15 to $20 the day it comes out because no one is selling it at the cover price). A book is an investment of my time to read it, and for that I want something well written and not a steamy pile of crud. The publisher wades through the 85% crap sent in to find the 1% of the remaining 15% that is worth publishing. Do a search on slushpiles and you can see some interesting pictures of what a publisher has to wade through. When I buy a book I'm paying the author for the story, but more the publisher for their time to filter out the crap that isn't worth reading so I don't have to. Yes, there are some books that are great that publishers turn down, but in comparison to the tons of worthless garbage that isn't deserving of the few k of space they take up, that is a good trade off for most people.
I do think if you cut out the cost of publishing a paper book, then that cost cutting should filter down to the ebook as well. Not many people pay full price for even a hard cover, why is the e version (bound with drm and the inability to loan or resell it) at $15 realistic? So they pay the author a buck or two and pocket the rest? (I am estimating high on the author payout). I'm more inclined to feel the publisher is against ebooks and would prefer them to fail when they price them high above a non drm'd paper version...which is cheaper in most cases.
"It says he made us all to be just like him. So if we're dumb, then god is dumb, and maybe even a little ugly on the side." -- Frank Zappa