This is from the Guardian's Book Blog, where a talk by author Anthony Horowitz has been summarized in a good article:
The title of this talk is, "Do We Need Publishers Any More?". I was going to call it "Thank Christ We Don't Need Bloody Publishers Any More" – but I felt that sounded too partisan.
I don't believe we don't need publishers anymore, but I do believe the established publishers need to catch up to modern attitudes towards publishing. For example, demanding electronic rights without offering reasonable royalties just isn't going to cut it in the future.
I could upload the new Apple iBooks Author software which will allow anyone to produce high-quality fiction. High-quality print, paper and covers, anyway. It's true that Apple have cannily demanded 30% of all profits and you can only sell your books through Apple stores, meaning that effectively they own you. But 70% is still tempting. Amazon is offering the same deal with their Digital Text Platform and I'm not saying anything bad about them in case they remove the BUY button from Alex Rider – as they did with all Macmillan books two years ago. That's a glimpse of the world we're now entering.
Anthony's talk is engaging and entertaining, and worth reading in its entirety. He's certainly not dismissing the role of established publishers:
I'm sure there are some very good self-published books out there and this may well be one of them – anyway, who am I to say? - but my feeling is that in some indefinable way, having a publisher raises the bar.