Re: book publishers
Amazon has removed a lot of the economic barriers to self-publishing. Whereas it used to cost you at least a few thousand clams to get a book published -- you had to go to a "Vanity Publishing" press, which required the purchase of a minimum number of books (i.e. hard copies), now you can do it with Amazon Kindle virtually free.
And there have a few authors who have made it this way: a few years ago, Forbes ran a story (I read it either there or in The Journal of Competitive Scandanavian Nudity) about a guy named Mark Dawson, who was making half a million clams a year, all from self-published books. He's been so successful at it that he's started a company that gives advice to other writers looking to self-publish.
To be fair, though, it seems that there is still an artistic stigma around self-publishing. The "If your book was any good, you'd have an agent" kind of deal.