This is part of why I am having a harder time with traditional publishing. Most of the work is done by the authors. Without the authors, they've got nothing. Yet the authors make the smallest cut, and the less there is invested by the publishers, the less the author makes. The first number makes sense. The publisher is laying out a lot of money to print books with no guarantee of return. But with e-books, the outlay is an editor and someone to do a cover and someone for formatting, expenses that could be pretty low if they have a salaried staff already retained. Especially for newer authors, most of the advertising is by the authors. I just don't see how publishers can claim to have earned the higher share of the e-books.
Er, as someone who is traditionally published, I disagree with this huge generalization. While sure, I've put a lot of work into my book, so has my editors, my copy-editors, my cover designers, my publicists and my marketing teams. Traditional publishing is a very collaborative process and those people earn their salaries. They work their butts of for you, for your book, and for the publishing company. No money in the world can equal the things that I've learned about the craft of writing in the past year from my agent and my editors. They made me a better writer. And that would not have happened if I'd self-published because the editing process would not be as extensive or intensive.
Should ebook royalties be higher? Sure, I'm sure all writers want higher royalties on all things and as we see ebooks take more of the market over, I'm sure it'll go up. But personally, I'll choose a decent advance, guidance by industry professionals, my books on shelves, my writing improving and lower royalties vs. having to go it on my own, constantly selling myself, putting out my own money to create a quality product for higher royalties when there's no guarantee all the stuff I worked so hard on will sell.
There isn't a right or a wrong way to do this. It depends on where your talents and vision lie. My head would explode if I had to do what more talented self-published authors do so successfully. I'm someone who likes people smarter than me lighting my way. Just like I'm sure some things I'm asked to do in trade publishing would make some self-published authors go "No way!" because successful self-publishers tend to like to run the show (and do it wonderfully!)