Sure, there may be horrible contracts out there, but there are obviously good ones also. Otherwise traditional publishing would go away altogether.
Actually, I've seen a ton of contracts, and if you are talking about the big-five....there isn't a single one that I would call "good." Just some that are worse than others. That's not to say that they are "unsignable." Traditional publishing has some great advantages and you have to take some trade-offs to get them. But they are worth it under the right circumstances.
Now there are some "good" contracts from small publishers. I think the contract I have with Tachyon Publications is AMAZING, and I even dedicated my book to them as they are "doing publishing right." So from a small press...yeah I think there are decent contracts, but if you are going to swim with the big guys...they are the ones calling the stroke.
And self-publishing is still a relatively new phenomenon which isn't widely embraced by everyone as of yet. Some say writing a book is the easy part. It's finding people to read it that is always the hard part. You're going to have hardships regardless of the path you take.
Indeed. The one thing I will say, however, is what is required of you to "find people to read it" is about the same whether you self or traditionally publish.
I do feel like sometimes there are "fundamentalists" on each side of the argument. Either do it one way or you're throwing your effort away. I don't really get this approach.
I think the fundamentals are write a really good book that a good number of people will want to read and tell others to do so as well. If you aren't doing that...then you will have a hard time finding success in either path (imho).