She's absolutely right, and I'm glad she's spoken out on this. I've written in a previous post about the importance of publishers, so I needn't say too much more here. But let me just say that I understand why she is so irritated. The press and blogosphere have poured out billions of bits of nonsense about how digitization will remove "the filter," and eliminate any mediation between author and reader. What a lot of hooey.
I don't think any of these millennialists, who promise us an approaching publisher-free utopia, have ever published a book—or read a self-published book. Publishers arose in the first place because they provide valuable services—because a "filter" is actually very important. After all, you always could go straight to a printing company and publish a book yourself; people have done it for centuries. The reason no one buys them is that they so often stink.
Publishers pick winners, and help make them winners. Sure, they make mistakes. Publishing is full of tales of famous books that were turned down by multiple houses, or the self-published book that took off on its own. But these are legends because they are so rare; they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Book proposals and manuscripts get turned down for good reasons, the vast majority of the time. And, as Carole Baron helpfully reminds us, editors make books better, as do so many people whose efforts are coordinated by editors, and who work for publishers.
Again, I've got no beef with e-books. I'm just worried that people who don't write for a living, and know nothing about how books come into being, are going to set new rules in the digital world for those of us who do.