Lapizuli - 5:45 pm on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)
I can be very long-winded about this, but in short, I think the underlying reason it's kept under the table is that it's part of a new economic model, and nobody trusts that it's legit, including the drop shipper.
Before you needed a physical bridge between the manufacturer and the consumer, because everything went in a store. Bricks and mortar.
Now the sales force can safely depart from the product's locale, because there's no infrastructure link. Even if a manufacturer is online and ecommerce-enabled, you still need to find consumers and sell them on product, unless the manufacturer somehow reaches all its target audience on its own, which is doubtful. That's what merchants who use drop shipping, affiliate marketers and advertising based publishers do.
People have it totally backward. Now it's not the sales affiliate, not the online storeless "merchant," not the AdSense publisher, who's the middleman. It's the bricks and mortar retailer. Why do you need them except for extremely local and immediate products?
It's why Amazon moved away from being exclusively warehouse. Every year they move closer to becoming an all-inclusive retail search engine and farther from a store.