Much of what you describe is true and just, but your overall description, to my mind, is unjust in that you do not mention, at least, the success of something like Arxiv.org or the efforts by many to create open access journals and repositories.
It’s also the case that for many scholarly societies, so here I am describing the humanities and not the human sciences, the expense of membership and registration to an annual conference, for which the individual scholar pays to travel and present, goes to support an administrative position: the person who collects dues, organizes the conference, keeps an eye on the ever-changing round of the society’s journal editors, etc. This is, if you will, a self-imposed tax.
I know less about the interaction between scholars and scientists who work in fields that collaborate with commercial publishers, at whom it strikes me much of your anger is, and should be, directed. Much of the work in which I participate resides in JSTOR, which is a walled garden of a different nature, and my feelings about it shift on a daily basis: on the one hand, I’d rather my work be freely available and easily accessible; on the other hand, you have to pay to keep the servers running, etc.
As for the role of science writers — and the current moment has gone goofy with science writers who seem, at times, to consider themselves scientists and offer up the dumbest of ideas (e.g., Gladwell)—and, in my experience, filmmakers, I too recognize that there is a drop in quality with a concomitant rise in apparent value created (as in they make money where we do not), and while my own recent attempt to write a more accessible book is still early in its release, I hope we can begin to encourage ourselves, as scholars and scientists, to write for two audiences: ourselves and those not ourselves but interested in what we do and/or discover. My dissertation advisor, Henry Glassie, put it this way one time in a conversation we had long long ago: “Books are for people; articles are for scholars.”
Thanks for writing about this and trying to initiate a larger conversation.