CMPTO: A Bookish Vision of the Future (A Newbie’s Account)

If you’re like me and my publishing pals, nothing incites more tech titillation than an evening with other bookish folk chatting about technology and publishing. Enter CMPTO (Code Meet Print Toronto), a gathering of print people and tech people in an unholy union to talk about innovations, challenges, and everything in between. Basically, throw a bunch of writers, publishers, and tech geeks in one room, add a few interesting speakers, sprinkle with drinks and snacks, then let simmer.

This week’s event was my first foray into the CMPTO meet-ups, so here’s a recap from the virgin eyes of a CMPTO newbie.

First up, Nebula award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer kicked off the night with a science fiction writer’s perspective on the future of technology and publishing, complete with many Star Trek references (yes!).  Contrary to the notion of science fiction as a predictor of technology in the future (beam me up, Espresso machine!), Sawyer asserted that science fiction instead acts as a reality check for where technology is headed. This doesn’t mean we should be sharpening our spear tips for entry into an imminent real-life arena à la The Hunger Games, but rather that authors and publishers should remember that the reason the book has persisted so long is that it’s a very specific form of storytelling, and redefining the book may mean redefining authors and publishers out of existence. This bears reflection as publishing enters and attempts to compete in an environment with major cross-platform multimedia players such as Disney, which has been in this game for awhile.

Next up was what I’ll refer to as the “holy moley mind-blowing” part of the evening. Andre Tiemann and Paulo Bittencourt presented their hand-constructed 3D printers, and some objects produced on those machines. What is 3D printing? I had absolutely no idea at the outset, just practiced the smile and nod technique, but it was explained that essentially, 3D printing is the printing of solid 3D objects from a digital file. The decreasing cost and increased usage of these machines means that innovation in 3D printing is exploding.

Tiemann and Bittencourt began by showing us objects they had created with the machine: a shot glass, toys, a mini-Connect-4 game, etc. But then came proof that the future is truly here. Research is currently exploring the use of 3D printing for customized medical supplies, prosthetics, food (the Frostinator for icing—yes, technology truly is amazing), houses, and even organs. The conclusion of this talk left me gazing wistfully off into space, daydreaming about what my new kidney/pancreas set might look like.

Lastly, Richard Nash wound up the evening with a talk on Small Demons, his crowdsourced indexing venture. If you’ve set foot in a publishing classroom in the last decade, it’s likely you’ve heard Nash’s name mentioned on more than one occasion in reference to publishing innovations. Nash’s latest venture is Small Demons, which is in the business of generating data. The Small Demons database includes indexing based on EPUB books received from publishers and then expanding with crowdsourced indexing of just about everything, from products to gadgets to pop culture and beyond.

Nash walked the audience through the Small Demons interface (including a delectable peek at the admin side of things). His talk included some decidedly excellent moments of flair, including distributing Small Demons beer coasters and displaying a photo of a lifesize bust of himself, which was printed on a 3D printer (think I’m kidding? Check it out).

I left CMPTO’s From Storyverse to Thingiverse meet-up with a full tummy and head a-buzzing. Join us at the next one and prepare yourself for some unbridled code/print delight.