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David Bockino utilizes Kindle platform for Myanmar narrative

The assistant professor in the School of Communications examined the Southeast Asian nation’s rise from the ground level, spending two-plus weeks exploring what has quickly become one of the world’s most enticing tourist destinations.

Assistant Professor David Bockino’s e-book examines the country’s rapid transition and the content is organized around his interactions with locals, artists, tour guides and traveling businessmen. The book cover was created by Evan Twohy.

Eight months after publishing his first book, investigating how the proliferation of guidebook material has altered the nature of travel, Assistant Professor David Bockino published new travel material in June highlighting Myanmar, what many business analysts have called one of the few untapped markets in the world.

To deliver his narrative focusing on the Southeast Asian country, Bockino detoured from the typical publishing methods—e.g., magazine articles and books—and partnered with Kindle Singles, an editor-curated platform he called “author-friendly.” 

Following his first year at Elon University, where he teaches communications and sport and event management courses, Bockino spent two and a half weeks in summer 2015 crisscrossing the sovereign state formerly known as Burma alone. After nearly a half-century of military rule, the country began to transition to a more democratic system about five years ago and has since welcomed an increased number of international travelers. In the time since, travel publications have dubbed it one of the world’s best tourist destinations, touting the country’s eclectic cultural makeup and more than 100 ethnic groups.

Bockino’s e-book, titled “Greetings From Myanmar,” examines the country’s rapid transition and the content is organized around his interactions with locals, artists, tour guides and traveling businessmen. His travels included both daylong bus rides, observing buffalo, farming and rice paddies, as well as luxurious stays in Naypyidaw, the “new capital city the country created out of thin air,” he said. A short excerpt is available on Bockino’s website.

As more international travelers have ventured to Myanmar, Kayah State has become an increasingly popular stop, thanks in large part to its famed longneck women of the Padaung villages.

The release date for “Greeting From Myanmar” is timed with the government’s official transition from military authoritative rule to a quasi-democratic regime, punctuated by the recent presidential appointment of Htin Kyaw, close friend and confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy. 

“It’s a complex time in Myanmar,” Bockino said. “That’s why I wanted to go there. I wanted to experience it firsthand and see it for myself. There are few countries in the world that have 50-60 million people who have been entirely isolated from the international global community. The transition in this country socially, culturally and economically is a really fascinating topic right now.”

In preparation for his trip, as well as to fulfill his own curiosity, Bockino read extensively about Myanmar. Most of the current news from the region emphasizes Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most visible political figure and a Nobel Peace laureate.

“Most of what I read also detailed how horrible it has been in the country and for its people during the past half-century,” Bockino noted. “And it certainly has been horrible. But I wanted to create a piece on Myanmar that was a little more optimistic, a little more grounded in the experiences of the people right now.”

Crowded streets are not uncommon in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub and most populated city.

The people of Myanmar—businessmen, artists, students and others—he encountered were as hospitable as advertised, the professor explained. He found them to be welcoming, entrepreneurial and enthusiastic about the country’s future. “‘Open for business’ is the impression I kept getting,” Bockino said. “There was this real feeling that this country is open for business in so many ways, touristically, economically and in terms of its government.”

“I’ve never considered myself a journalist, and I still don't, but I enjoy talking to people,” he added, explaining his informal interviewing style. “I think talking to individual people helps illuminate larger trends and topics. That is the point of the piece: to see these stories of individual people and to talk about the larger issues they face.”

Bockino emphasized that the book isn’t just a first-person memoir, having supplemented the topic with months of research and historical perspective. “It’s very historically driven with primary sources,” he said. “I spent many weeks in the library pulling it together.”

Nicole McEwan G’16, a graduate student in Elon University’s Interactive Media master’s program, created this graphic to illustrate Bockino’s travels in Myanmar. 

While the subject matter was compelling, Bockino realized he didn’t have enough content to fill a 300-page book, hence the association with Kindle Singles. The platform has been a popular partner for authors—both well-known storytellers, such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and newcomers—to publish essays, novellas, memoirs and short stories.

Bockino explained that he was caught in no man’s land, with content too long for magazines and too light for a full-blown book. “I had a piece that was about 20,000 words. And what do you do with a piece that is 20,000 words?” he asked. “That’s a quarter of a book.”

The team at Kindle Singles, and his editor, Ali Castleman, offered Bockino an easy, online distribution model and assisted with copyediting, cover design and promotion. Most importantly, the publication will also have “access to the most voracious readers in the country and the world,” he said.

“I didn’t want ‘Greetings From Myanmar’ to be a book with a bunch of filler,” Bockino said. “I wanted it to be a way for people to learn about this country in an entertaining and enjoyable way. And Kindle Singles is a great way for an author, a new author like myself, to be seen and read.”

Tourists enjoy a sunset in Bagan, a sprawling plain of thousand-year-old temples. Given these views, it’s not surprising that the location is the country’s most popular tourist destination.

​Elon University’s Faculty Research & Development committee supported Bockino’s travels to Myanmar, providing him with funding through a new faculty summer research stipend.

Tommy Kopetskie,
6/7/2016 12:50 PM