There's an interesting blog written by author Kiana Davenport about her experience with a NYC publisher. Obviously, we're getting one author's experience with a certain NYC publisher and not the publisher's story, but the story is oddly familiar to me. I've heard quite a bit of these kind of stories.
I'm not against the big publishers per se, but I do wonder about whether it's appropriate that they have been the gatekeepers. A free press is what makes us free. So, I'm all for people having access to publishing.
Now, I do have caveats, and that is that good publishers do weed through the submissions, edit the manuscript, and professionally publish it. If an author is willing to jump through the hoops on their own, self publishing might be the way to go for them. But for a publishing house to bully an author because he or she decided to self publish his or her works is...well...ridiculous.
As a publisher, I read the story with amazement. Not that I disbelieved the story, but I found it disconcerting that some publishers may have stooped so low as to threaten an author because she needed to make a living. The book under contract should have been the book in question and not the other works. I can see a right of first refusal with the publisher, but if the publisher had already said no, then the author should be able to publish her work herself.
I think the whole ebook thing has caught some publishers napping and they're scrambling for control. With bookstores such as Borders going under, more people are turning to alternate forms of writing, such as ebooks. POD used to be a dirty word, but is now considered a way to put trade paperbacks out. The truth is that the paradigm for publishing is shifting, and those who will not change, who insist on selling books for the hardback or trade paper prices, or who demand people use the gatekeepers are going to be left in the dust, wondering what happened.