First things first, a personal note - I cannot stand arrogance. The attitude that people have sometimes that they are better than me. Not more skilled at some certain activity, or more accomplished. I'm talking flat-out snobbishness.
I'm just saying. We're all big boys and girls. We should be pretty well capable of picking out the books we want to read, right?
My reaction to the gatekeeper argument, the idea that big publishers are necessary as gatekeepers, to tell the readers what is or isn't good? I don't buy it. Every time I pick up a book in a library, browse it, and decide not to read it, I'm being my own gatekeeper.
No matter how much crap is out there, it's easy to avoid.
Especially with book sampling, social networks, and so on. I have a huge to be read list, and it's all stuff recommended by friends. Not publishers.
If a gatekeeper function is all big publishers offer readers, I don't see readers continuing to be willing to pay three times the price for a paper book vs an ebook. I certainly don't see why an author would want to accept 1/4 the royalties just for the approval of a publisher.
This all may read as bitter, but I assure you it isn't. I have no ill-will towards any publisher, big, small, or self. Nor do I have any bias against any writer's choice on how they disseminate their work.
As a reader, however, and a consumer (which every reader is), I don't see the value in dealing with intermediaries, when the cost is so high.