It's tiresome to run across article after article castigating the self-published author. I feel bad for the authors, especially those with excellent books which couldn't get the time of day from agents or publishers.
Yes, there's a ton of bad vanity press out there, but you're not likely to run across any of it without looking hard. The fact is, self-pubbed books don't have the marketing support given by major conventional publishers. Heck, small presses don't have those resources either. So, unless you can get your book into the diminishing number of big-time conventional publishers, you can either stuff your manuscript in a drawer or send it off to any of dozens of self-publishing companies.
Here are some reasons why people have self-published:
1. The topic of the book is very limited in scope either because it's something like a family history or set in one tiny corner of the world that nobody is interested in hearing about.
2. The writing isn't up to par. Without lots of first readers, critiquers, and whoever else a writer can shanghai into helping out, then it's almost impossible to have a decently written book. No more lonely (drunken) writer hanging out in a dark garrett, then getting discovered by BIG PUB company. It takes a village to create a book. Writers definitely need to work at their craft and improve their writing through coursework, joining critique groups, and buying some good how-to-write books.
3. Time is of the essence. This is where I fall in the self-published reasons list. The one and only book I'll self-pub is "Tales of a Texas Boy." I've mentioned before this is based on stories my father told me about his life growing up on a West Texas farm in the Depression Era. I think of this as his book and I was merely the (rather talented) scribe to convey his stories. Maybe I should have put his name on the cover with an "as told to..." line following his byline. Then, I wouldn't have the stigmata of self-pubbed on my name. But, I didn't think of that at the time and now the damage is done. Still, I'm glad to have his book out in the world, even for the limited audience who'll find, read, and enjoy it.
I know a lovely lady who self-pubbed four books. I told her she should have tried to get an agent or conventional publisher because her writing and stories are certainly good enough. Her answer was "I'm too old to wait for that process." She's a senior citizen. She wanted her books published. End of story.
4. Good writer, good book, good topic, but the writer was naive and believed that the likes of PublishAmerica was a "real" publisher. These folks were conned because they didn't do their homework and gulped down the snakeoil the Vanity Press was selling.
Anyway, I just wanted to say a few words on the subject. Don't be put off by a book you think might be interesting because you recognize the publisher as a vanity press. Fortunately, Amazon has the nice Search Inside feature. Use it. Read some of the book. Does it pass muster? Does it interest you? Then buy the damned thing and make the day of some poor writer who fell into one of the above categories.