An independent spirit used to be considered a good thing. Self-starter was a compliment, it got teacher's and boss's attention--in a good way.
In film, independent has become a stamp of quality. Big budget films rock. They're commercial, but the "Indies" are where you expect the art to happen. They have indie awards, indie festivals. You just say the name, independent film, and people expect a level of cutting edge, artistic merit.
So I have to wonder how the publishing world has done such a great job of equating Indie with a big old stamp that says "crap." I don't get it. Or, maybe I do. The last thing a struggling industry needs is competition on a huge scale. Still, I like the idea of incorporating a little art and shine to the term Indie book.
I know there is a lot of quality concerns. You hear, "if anyone can publish their work, the reader will be unable to find what is good among all the crud." Well, how did film manage then? They employed the aforementioned, awards, festivals, etc. I honestly think independent authors could do a bang up job of self-screening, of organizing and Indie festival.
Of course, I also think readers are doing that on their own. I'm just about a hundred percent sure they already have a quality control infrastructure in the works. Book bloggers come to mind. Reader reviews do as well. I can imagine Reader Awards too. But then, I give readers a lot of credit for intelligence and craftiness.
I think the only way to get rid of that sneer behind the term "indie author" is to continue to prove it wrong. I look forward to hearing about Indie Excellence in fiction. I'm guessing that it's just around the corner.