The publishers are right, of course, to charge for the content. However that's not the point.
For print books you have:
costs for content creation + costs for typesetting and design of the print book + costs for printing (1)
For ebooks you have
costs for content creation + costs for typesetting and design of the ebook (2)
Provided that the third component of the cost is absent for ebooks, the second should be more or less the same as with print books, and the first is completely identical, you should get cheaper ebooks than print books. In fact, for the majority of the books on Amazon the paperback version is sold at a lower price than the ebook (maybe that's the way I see it here in Europe, because Amazon charges VAT).
It should be pointed out that pring books could be loaned, borrowed, resold, which in a way makes their price even lower for the consumer. You can't do that with DRM ebooks.
In theory, a new electronic publisher could break the status quo by entering the market and by charging less for ebooks. In practice it is very difficult to happen, because it should sign a lot of popular authors from the onset, in order to make a difference.
Last edited by slex; 12-18-2011 at 02:21 PM.