In the old days, anybody could have an opinion, and most did, but only a select few could get their opinions to the market. Today, anybody can make their opinion available to the entire on-line world, and many do. Of course, this also means that many people publish opinions that nobody else wants to read, either because they are trivial, boring, or disturbing. We have a plurality of opinions that we never saw before the Internet, and of course that means that sifting through those opinions is harder and harder. But they are all, even the trivial, boring, and disturbing ones, good to have available. They give us a deeper insight into the minds of people we might not normally see. The more out-of-tune voices, the better.
We are, of course, still free to ignore those opinions, and out of necessity we still do. We all make our choices about what to listen to—but we no longer have that choice made for us by someone else who happens to own a newspaper or television station.
In the old days, anybody could write a book, and quite a few did, but only a select few could publish their books to the masses. Today, just about anyone with a hundred dollars (or sometimes even less) can make their book available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million for the world to purchase. The fact that many do makes it that much more difficult to be heard through the din, but that, also, reflects a wonderful new cacophony of voices.
We can look at some of the tales of authors almost not getting published, or getting published solely through the dogged determination of their heirs, and realize that some wonderful books have been lost forever. No future generation will ever find them, because they were thrown out when the author died (or committed suicide) along with the rest of the author’s effects. To the extent that self-publishing changes that, it is a good thing.