The book publishers are making the same mistake the music industry did: they assume the customer is an adversary.
I decided earlier this month that I would be offering e-book versions of my novels. It was more a question of through what venue and in what form, not if I would do it at all. It's high time I got the wheels turning.
I don't mind selling an e-book version of my work for less than the printed book. Maybe that's because there are that many less stages of remove between me and the customer, and that I can put the same amount of money back in my own pocket with an e-book — perhaps even more, depending on the final pricing I set.
Digression time. When I first started self-publishing, I did some poking around to see what other people were doing, and I was stupefied to see people charging $35 and $45 a copy for their indie publications. Their justification was that the price per copy for print-on-demand was so high, they deserved to recoup something for their investment — right? Except that there's generally no initial outlay for POD, and so the "investment" is not the same as buying a thousand copies upfront from a printer.
Again and again, I found people who seemed to be completely unwilling to see things from their own customer's POV. One guy I know was perfectly okay with charging $35 for a single book (as mentioned above) because he didn't plan on selling that many copies anyway. Not hard to see why.
Sob stories are bad drivers of sales. Nobody cares where you get your books from, or how much it costs. They care how much they have to pay for it, and whether or not it'll be worth buying in the first place.
A central rule of marketing: Give the customer as few reasons as possible to say no. If you are giving them classy merchandise for a good price that they can't get anywhere else, you have a lot more covered than many other people.