SB Sarah opines on the Macmillan/Amazon showdown (her term), and I got the shock of my middle-aged life. I _had_ firmly believed that people-who-read-a-lot (defined as 2+ books a week for these purposes) notice publishers and, over time, will use knowledge of publishers as a way to find more books they might like and/or to tie-break when debating between a couple of choices. I don't _think_ I'm talking out of turn to say that when I started worked at that bookstore that the single most requested search feature was a search-by-publisher. I thought the request was eminently reasonable; just about everyone else working there (a very short list at the time) was confused -- they didn't pay attention to publisher when looking for reading material. But then, they didn't read a lot.
A bunch of the usual stupidity runs through the comments, but the shocker was that romance readers as a class completely ignore publisher, with a short list of exceptions. (1) Tor Romance apparently really pissed off a bunch of readers. (2) Romance readers who are _also_ SF/F readers do pay attention to publishers (because SF/F readers live and breathe by their imprint -- one of the things I did early on in The Recent Excitement was go check out what PNH had to say on the subject, partly because he's usually pretty reasonable, and partly because he is the soul of Tor. I was not, I might add, particularly impressed by what little I found by him on the topic.). (3) People buying a lot of epublished stuff (EC and the like) are forced to pay attention.
dunnettreader (at the end when I read the comments) has some of the best commentary. I don't necessarily agree that in the long run, the agency model will reduce ebook sales -- but I'm inclined to agree it will slow adoption down slightly in the medium term thus reducing pressure on producers and sellers of physical books. Whether that's a good or bad thing is legitimately debatable. Fast transitions can do some damage -- but they can ultimately save a lot of people a lot of money. Slow transitions give people time to adjust, but they often wind up forcing everyone to pay two and three times what they might otherwise have had to pay, as they limp along with a foot in two worlds, while holding on for dear life to a third.