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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

20 June 2012

What kind of idiot self-publishes a 29-year-old dissertation?

Uh, that would be me.

And I don't think it's idiotic, all things considered. So I prepared a FAQ.

Isn't your dissertation way out of date?

Unfortunately not. My original 1984 dissertation (finished in 1983) remains the most up-to-date and complete work on mating behavior of the Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica). I also stuck in a five-page insert with some recent information, primarily on the growing importance of knowledge about the Nicobar pigeon and on island biogeography.

OK, I'll bite. Why is your research on the Nicobar pigeon, a bird I never heard of before, important?

Glad you asked!
  • The Nicobar pigeon is classified as Near Threatened. Unless good conservation measures are taken soon, it could dwindle or even die out in the wild as humans and their accompanying dogs and rats encroach on the remote small islands where Nicobar pigeons breed. When preserving a species, knowledge of its behavior, especially its breeding behavior, is essential.
  • It's among the most beautiful of the pigeons and doves. Its loss would be a shame for that reason alone.
  • It split off early from the rest of the doves and pigeons. As a result, it has some fascinating features that are uncommon in other living Columbids. For example, it breeds in colonies, and it swallows stones to help grind up the hard food it eats. It is also an example of what the ancestral ur-pigeon may have been like.
  • Much research on mate choice has been conducted on ordinary lab pigeons. My data on the Nicobar pigeon can be used to test whether theories developed with lab pigeons holds in other pigeon species. Ditto for other aspects of mating behavior in pigeons.
  • Since 1983, scientists have discovered that the closest living relative of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and the solitaire bird (Pezophaps solitaria) is the Nicobar pigeon. Because the dodo and the solitaire are extinct, the Nicobar pigeon is the best model we have for speculating what the biology and behavior of these birds were like.
  • Since 1983, the enigmatic, and extinct, "Liverpool pigeon" has been assigned to the genus Caloenas as Caloenas maculata. In addition, fossil remains of a giant Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas canacorum), now extinct, have been discovered. The Nicobar pigeon is no longer an oddity, but rather represents a successful line of birds that includes the dodo, solitaire, and other members of Caloenas that lived on islands for roughly 45 million years—until human encroachment.
  • Many mammals, birds, and reptiles that live on small islands in the Pacific are in the same precarious position as the Nicobar pigeon. The more scientists know about the Nicobar pigeon and its behavioral and biological adaptations to the small-island lifestyle, the better the odds of survival for all of these animals.
You don't actually expect to make money selling a dissertation, do you?

No. I priced it too low, for one thing—only slightly above Amazon's cost. I want it to be affordable for grad students.

But I definitely will save money. Over the years, foreign scientists and students have written to me saying they needed my dissertation for their research but couldn't afford to pay the $70+ the U.S. dissertation repository charged for a copy. In such cases, I photocopied the dissertation and mailed it to them. Now that the dissertation is available for only $7.99, I won't have those photocopying and overseas mail costs anymore.

But didn't you have to spend money and time preparing the book for publication?
    Because I plan to self-publish a novel later this year, I would have had to spend the time learning how to publish with anyway. I just learned a little earlier.

    As for money, all the work was done in-house. My husband scanned the original dissertation. I used a free, royalty-free background and out-of-copyright images for the front and back covers. I designed the covers myself (with some design help for the front from my sister-in-law) and did all the rest of the production. I used only software I already owned. Amazon takes its cut when books sell; one does not need to pay anything upfront.

    Thus, I spent nothing to put my dissertation up for sale.

    Why didn't you publish it as an ebook? You could have sold it even cheaper.

    First, I didn't have the files. I finished it in 1983, remember? Second, the dissertation is table-heavy, and Kindle currently does not handle tables well.

    OK, you've convinced me this publication was not a total waste of your time. Where can people get this masterpiece?

    It's for sale as a large paperback at at Thanks for buying it.

    I didn't say I was buying it. I just asked where it could be found.

    Interview over.


    Charles Gramlich said...

    Hey, sounds like good reasons for publishing it to me!

    ninthmuse (roz m) said...

    Loved this "interview" and explanation. Well done!

    Shauna Roberts said...

    CHARLES, glad to know you agree.

    ROZ, thanks!