ProQuest's UMI Dissertation Publishing is pretty much the distributor of dissertations and theses in the US and Canada (beyond an author posting the work on his or her personal website, or an ILL to the relevant academic library). ProQuest/UMI offer the service of permanently archiving and making your work searchable and accessible - and readers pay $36 for a PDF or $43 for an unbound print copy. To be fair, I personally consider this a reasonable price for documents the size of a dissertation (considering that Elsevier and kin charge roughly the same for the PDF of a 2-page paper from a second-rate journal), and the authors do see a (small) royalty check for any sales (and I do know folks who have gotten such royalties - good luck getting Elsevier or other commercial publishers to ever agree to any author royalties, ever!).
On the other hand, I realize that $36 is a deterrant for those casually or even non-casually interested in a piece of research (no matter how relevant it might be). So. . .open access seems to be the best way to go, in terms of ensuring a wide audience. This then leaves us two options: 1) post a PDF on a personal website; or 2) take advantage of open access through ProQuest (or both 1&2).
For long-term accessibility, I decided that #2 would be a good way to go. Sure, I'll post it on my own website (as I work on designing this), but it also made sense to make it available through as many sources as possible. Lots of folks use the ProQuest search engine (at least I do, whenever I want to check up on a dissertation), and this could very well be the main way interested parties find my dissertation document.
So, when submitting all of the paperwork before graduation last spring, I signed on the dotted line and wrote the little check (right now, it is $65 for their standard processing fee, which everyone pays, and an extra $95 for the open access fee*) to make my work open access, through PQDT Open. This meant that my work would be indexed in their database, made searchable through Google, and that nobody (me or ProQuest or UMI) would be earning any more money off of the document (but how many people were going to buy it in the first place, right?).
PQDT Open also offers an "author embargo" option, in which you can delay full dissemination of the dissertation for a specified length of time (six months, one year, or two years, I believe). I chose to delay by a year, in order to allow me a little lead time to get most of the chapters through the review process and into press. I was 2/3 successful for my three big chapters, and the third big chapter is now in review. Would I do it this way again (i.e., delayed access), or allow immediate access? I'm not sure. I see costs and benefits to both ways.
So, this is just a long way of announcing that my 2008 dissertation on cranial pneumaticity and ceratopsid sinuses is now available permanently and free of charge as a PDF through ProQuest, right here.
I should also give a big shout-out to Matt Wedel (aka Dr. Vector), for first getting me thinking about the issue.
The appropriate citation for the dissertation is:
Farke, A. A. 2008. Function and evolution of the cranial sinuses in bovid mammals and ceratopsian dinosaurs. Ph.D. dissertation, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, 226 pp. (available for download here)
The component chapters (with the exception of the introduction, conclusions, and occasional small sections of the other chapters) are either published or wending their way through the publication process. Relevant citations include:
Farke, A. A. 2008. Frontal sinuses and head-butting in goats: a finite element analysis. Journal of Experimental Biology 211:3085-3094. (PDF and full text now freely available here; see here and here for my blog posts about the article)
Farke, A. A. In press. Evolution and functional morphology of the frontal sinuses in Bovidae (Mammalia: Artiodactyla), and implications for the evolution of cranial pneumaticity. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. (Should hopefully be up on EarlyView shortly - I am happy to send a PDF of the final draft to anyone who is so interested)
Farke, A. A. In review. Evolution, homology, and function of the supracranial sinuses in ceratopsian dinosaurs. (Look to this blog for further updates)
(*note - I updated this post to reflect the open access fees current as of fall 2008)