I actually agree with his larger "problem" of the internet offering too much, as practical considerations that limited one's consumption of media - namely, availability - disappear. But then he gets into the kind of case study: he had enough short stories to put together into a book, but he decided to forgo the traditional publisher route and publish the collection himself, using readily available tools. I can pinpoint just where the red flags go up in my reading:
What bothers me is his blase way of referring to his past experience, and his flattening of these publishing options. I know I'm overly defensive here, but all of those publishers put work into publishing his collections. From a quick glance, it looks like he's published with Tor Books (part of Macmillan), Running Press (part of Perseus), and someplace called Tachyon Publications, which looks to be an independent sci-fi publisher out of San Francisco.
A lot of great writers - including Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Kurt Vonnegut - have gone with small independent publishers for collections, knowing it would boost the bottom line for said publishers and help those publishers stick around to nurture new voices. (Forgive the all-white-male list - they jumped to mind.) They had a collective mentality, which is what I maintain is needed in publishing, and is something this mentality being put forth by Doctorow lacks.
In fact, Doctorow brags about making more money by self-publishing:
I know we can't fault writers much for making money, because there is so little to be made in this profession. This still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's just too simple. Why is it, one must ask, that "formerly expensive action can now be had merely for the time it takes to seize on the opportunity"? It's the reaction I'm increasingly having to excited reports of cheap consumer goods. There are sacrifices being made elsewhere for you to get that t-shirt for $4.99.
Likewise, crafts are being diminished so that publishing can be made available so readily. It's unclear to me how other people involved in this project - most notably, the "artist friends" Doctorow is using to design various covers - are being compensated, or the "voice-actor pals." It's all a big fun game with buddies "in three countries." But traditionally, those have been employees, with health insurance and stable jobs, who work for publishing companies that pay them to do that labor. I don't mean to get all Norma Rae here, but when we skip over financial compensation and employment stability and have a "let's just let people be artists" attitude, I always worry that we're screwing the working class and poor creative types who cannot take such risks, while the wealthy creative types can wait around for these jobs to fall into their laps, from friends, and not worry about the compensation.
I feel I have been the skunk at the proverbial garden party a few times around here, and that's too bad. I love fun as much as the next editor! But I sometimes worry that just as we were starting to build in ways of getting more voices heard from both sides of publishing - writers and employees - we are now blowing up the whole operation, and leaving the parts right back in the hands of the privileged few who can enjoy publishing, the career, as publishing, the hobby.