1. Technology

HTML5 for Publishers

by Sanders Kleinfeld

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


HTML5 for Publishers by Sanders Kleinfeld

HTML5 for Publishers by Sanders Kleinfeld

Image © O’Reilly

Bottom Line

This book is well suited to anyone who already knows how to build ePub ebooks and has some HTML experience. In it you will get an introduction to some of the more interesting new features of HTML5 that can be used in ebooks.

But this book is not for anyone is new to ePub or HTML. You aren't going to learn how to use HTML5 for publishing ebooks, and in fact you'll really only get an overview of the new features in HTML5 that you can use. If you're interested in publishing and HTML5 you won't go wrong in downloading this free ebook, but until you know more about ePub, you might find it difficult to use.


  • At 56 pages, this book is a very fast read
  • Gives some interesting ideas for how to use these advanced HTML5 technologies in ebooks
  • This book is free


  • Each section is really just an overview with some resources at the end to learn more
  • Very limited description of how to get your HTML into an ePub, and almost nothing about Kindle (Mobi)
  • Takes fairly challenging HTML5 concepts and gives a short overview of them, enough to know you don't know enough


  • Publisher: O’Reilly
  • Price: $0.00
  • Length: 56 pages
  • Released: October 2011
  • Chapter 1 explains about the HTML5 CANVAS element. It covers some drawing, graphing, and even how to create a “finger painting” program in your ebook.
  • Chapter 2 helps you add geolocation into your books with the GeoLocation API.
  • Chapter 3 covers the AUDIO and VIDEO elements, which are possibly the most interesting thing for most publishers at this time.
  • Chapter 4 is the part where you can put your HTML into an ePub file. It also has some information about creating ebook apps and adding HTML5 to Kindle (Mobi) books.

Jennifer Kyrnin’s Review of HTML5 for Publishers

I had high hopes for this book, probably unreasonable hopes, especially for a free, 56-page ebook. But ultimately I was hoping that this book about HTML for publishing would be more about using HTML to create ebooks and less about HTML5-specific elements to use in ebooks. But as I said, perhaps this was a bit unreasonable. But I have yet to find a good book on using HTML to publish ebooks.

This book is not a book for using HTML to create and publish ebooks. What it is is a book about some HTML5 features that can (sometimes) be used in ebooks to enhance them. It covers CANVAS for drawing pictures and creating games. He even has a working finger painting program right in the book. It also covers geolocation and adding sound and video into your ebooks and a chapter on getting your HTML into the ePub format. But in order to use this book you have to have both a strong understanding of how to create HTML, how ePub ebooks work, and HTML5. This is not a book for beginners, and most people who want to publish ebooks are not interested in learning HTML or how to build an ePub file.

Another frustration I had with the book was how short it was. Yes, true, it was free, but there was no introduction to publishing ebooks, nothing about where to get started with HTML5. In fact, when I started reading the first chapter, I went back and re-read the introduction a couple of times thinking I had missed something, because chapter 1 jumps into one of the more difficult and complex aspects of HTML5 without a segue—HTML5 CANVAS. This chapter, like all the others, takes this complex concept and simplifies it down to nearly nothing. He does mention that the CANVAS element requires JavaScript to draw anything, and does some explanation of how to do that. But the explanation of the code is weak, with some things completely left out (like where is the context set for the canvas? And where does he even define what element is referring to “my_canvas” that he references throughout his script? The canvas tag he writes at the beginning of the chapter is called “my_first_canvas” so even if you assume he's got some get-by-id function running, it still won't work.). You can see that part of the script on the GitHub repository for the book, but if you just type in what is written in the book, you will be disappointed when it doesn't work.

There are a few great ideas for how to use the HTML5 technologies that he describes in the book. For example, the chapter on canvas suggests that a math book might have an embedded graphing calculator right there for the students and shows you how you might do it. The chapter on geolocation talks about some ways that the books could be made more personal with weather and location embedded right in the book. And the audio and video chapter suggests that you could have a text-to-speech function in your glossary or index. All of these examples are coded so that you can get them working in HTML. But that brings me to my next frustration with this book.

The support for some of these features in ePub is limited, specifically geolocation. He doesn't talk about ebook support in any of the chapters until he's explained the uses and gotten you really fired up to use the techniques he's shown. That would be fine, except that in some cases support is loose at best. About geolocation, he writes:

“Geolocation support is not yet widespread in EPUB readers.… iBooks is again the only one that supports the Geolocation API.

…While iBooks can query the Geolocation API… it does not support the necessary XMLHttpRequest functionality for querying Internet web services…”

In other words, while iBooks will get the latitude and longitude, it can't do anything with them. Which seems a bit pointless to me. He suggests that instead you write your geolocation enabled ebook on a web page and point readers to it with a link in your eBook.

Don't get me wrong, I think that geolocation will be present in ebooks eventually, but if that's the reason you're reading this book, you're going to be disappointed.

I think this book is designed for publishers who already do a lot of publishing via HTML to ePub (and possibly Mobi), but don't know about the new features of HTML5. For that audience, I would give this book 5 stars. The price and the numerous examples and places to learn more about all the technology make it a good deal.

But if you are not a part of that audience, especially if you're new to either ePub or HTML, then this book will be frustrating.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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