I'm not saying that all e-books should sell for $6 or something like that. I've happily paid $70 for a technical e-book where the paper copy was $100.
But when the e-book costs more than the hardcover (when it's released) and more than the paperback (when it's released), the publisher is just gouging the purchaser.
> The figures I've seen suggest 30% each for distributor and retailer.
If you have publisher, distributor and retailer that's actually worse than the 50% I was thinking.
something to keep in mind, When Amazon started selling e-books they were paying the person who listed the book 35% of the purchase price (i.e. Amazon was keeping 65% of the purchase price) and nobody was screaming about Amazon gouging the publishers, it was in the range they expected. It was big news when Amazon started offering an option to give the person who listed the book 70% of the purchase price.
Note that when publishers list books for $12.99 or $14.99 they (and therefor the author) get paid significantly less than if they listed the book for $9.99, but many of them insist on continuing to do so.
Any publisher could start selling e-books directly from their own website, and the costs of doing so would be significantly lower than the cost of selling through Amazon. This works even for customers with Kindles or Nooks. Baen books does this, others could as well.
Apple forbids the publisher from doing this inside apps for their products, but I'll bet publishers could get convince them to alter their policies if they really wanted to.