Mobileread
Why no discussion of HTML as a book format?
#1  pittendrigh 06-09-2020, 10:51 AM
I read mostly with my phone. I use both Kindle and Play Books. Embedded sound (for instance bird songs inside bird watching books) seems to work more often on Play Books, and more often not to work on Kindle. What about HTML? Embeded multi-media always works on a web page.

It is possible to display an entire book on a website using pure HTML and javascript, complete with Next Page and Prev Page buttons. Even with a Last Read Page button, and a searchable index.

HTML as a book format has advantages and disadvantages. What follows is an example, without mentioning the software name or a link to the source codes. So this isn't spam. It's just an example. Why isn't HTML used more often?

Project Gutenberg has complete books online in HTML format. But they come as one giant very looooooooooooooong page. Making a page turning system isn't all that hard, and it makes book navigation an order of magnitude more convenient.

https://montana-riverboats.com/?robopage=Birds/introduction.htm

The example above does not yet have a searchable index. It will eventually. I'm thinking about how best to make it happen.
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#2  Quoth 06-10-2020, 04:33 AM
It's rubbish on anything other than a Web browser, and eBooks have nice features not in most web browsers.
A very navigable book via HTML is needing a lot of javascript and is slow. I made them nearly 15 years ago from Gutenberg books and books written by people I know so I could read them on a locked down Personal Media Player with a 4.3" screen.

A web page is like a scroll and true pagination needs either a custom browser or a server.

Long ago ebook formats added versions that used HTML and then CSS internally. An ebook file is really a zip file with HTML files, images, CSS files, cover image, Table of Contents and a list of all the files. An actual HTML only ebook format is a backward step. You'd need some method to package up the CSS, images, list of links to headings etc to be able to distribute it. You'd quickly end up with something like Mobi or epub. The newer Amazon AZW/KF8 is basically epub2 with proprietary Amazon DRM.

So don't bother re-inventing the wheel. The HTML websites are like Scrolls. The ebooks are already a packaged up HTML website, like the Codex (the 2000+ year old idea of cutting up the the scrolls into pages, which allows easier access), a book.
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#3  JSWolf 06-10-2020, 05:54 AM
Most Readers will not display an HTML eBook. So would you want to design eBooks in HTML that Kindle, Kobo, and B*N users cannot read?
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#4  pdurrant 06-10-2020, 06:31 AM
Quote pittendrigh
I read mostly with my phone. I use both Kindle and Play Books. Embedded sound (for instance bird songs inside bird watching books) seems to work more often on Play Books, and more often not to work on Kindle. What about HTML? Embeded multi-media always works on a web page.

It is possible to display an entire book on a website using pure HTML and javascript, complete with Next Page and Prev Page buttons. Even with a Last Read Page button, and a searchable index.

HTML as a book format has advantages and disadvantages. What follows is an example, without mentioning the software name or a link to the source codes. So this isn't spam. It's just an example. Why isn't HTML used more often?

Project Gutenberg has complete books online in HTML format. But they come as one giant very looooooooooooooong page. Making a page turning system isn't all that hard, and it makes book navigation an order of magnitude more convenient.

https://montana-riverboats.com/?robopage=Birds/introduction.htm

The example above does not yet have a searchable index. It will eventually. I'm thinking about how best to make it happen.
You might want to look at Baen Books' online reader. You can try it out with books in their free library https://www.baen.com/library

But plain HTML or even HTML/CSS isn't really a book format. It's just a coding standard. No standard way to define metadata. No standard container for the various parts (CSS, Fonts, Images).

If you add in those things, essentially you end up with ePub.
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#5  hobnail 06-10-2020, 02:23 PM
Quote pittendrigh
It is possible to display an entire book on a website using pure HTML and javascript, complete with Next Page and Prev Page buttons. Even with a Last Read Page button, and a searchable index.

Making a page turning system isn't all that hard, and it makes book navigation an order of magnitude more convenient.
A recurring topic here is people wanting page numbers in an ebook, typically corresponding to the page numbers in the printed book. Which then brings up the question, the hardback book or the paperback book, and if the book has been updated and reissued, which edition?

In the case of an html web page book, what is a page? Is it everything I can see? That would be smaller for a phone and bigger for a tablet or desktop computer. And for me, there's always the problem that I'm too cheap to get a data plan and my phone is only connected to the internet when I'm at home or where there's public wifi, so how would I read a book when I'm not connected? And I'm old and can't read on a phone so a tablet would be necessary, which would mean it has some sort of phone data plan, which I'm guessing isn't typical.

For many of us who read ebooks, reading them on an ereader (Kindle, Kobo, etc.) is much more pleasant than a tablet or phone because of the e-ink display.

So for me, if there was a book I wanted to read on a web page that wasn't also available as an ebook the first thing I would do is download the html and convert it to an ebook. I did that a few times with some books on the defunct University of Adelaide site, which had a web page book setup like you're wanting. They also had available the epub format of the book, which looked to have been automatically generated by software.
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#6  pittendrigh 06-12-2020, 09:11 AM
I appreciate the feedback. Some of you wrote long answers and I am grateful.

No one mentioned PDF and flipbooks, which are widely used. I don't personally like PDF but it is widely used, which demonstrates a market for book-like material served form the web, rather than from the palm of your hand. PDF cannot embed video. PDF is annoying because you cannot easily cut and paste (which is also a problem too with most but not all epub readers).

I use my HTML/php/js system already, on my website, where I sell a boat building book. I'm doing well with it. I boldly, clearly offer each new customer a no conditions refund. It's been several years since anybody asked for one.

Website as book Disadvantages:
A website that looks and acts like a book won't display in an epub only device (Kindle)

Someone complained about slow HTML response. My system includes page turning and return to Last Read page. But it is files-based with no database involved. It is lighting fast compared to say WordPress.

Book-like website Advantages:
1) You can embed sound and video. You can't do that in epub. It's too big. epub could be made to stream mp4, from remote sites, but for what ever reason they do not.

2) From an author's point of view you reap 100% of the sale price. DRM is trivial. I've been selling passwords to online boat building plans and blueprints since 2005. I get $25 per sale. I once approached a publisher and was offered something like $1.25 dollar per sale. Good lord. Forget that. Why would I even bother?

3) I can feed my text into Calibre, create an epub and offer an epub download to those who insist on it. Those readers would be denied embedded video. I still get 100% of the sale.

4) There are obvious reasons to want an online book in the online E-learning context. I taught computer programming online for five years before I retired. Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard and all the others do not have a good way to present book-like background reading materials online, in conjunction with their "digital classroom" softwares.

Moodle now, only recently, has a book-like plugin. I'm sure it will improve over time but it is database driven, so it is hard to set up and its performance is slow. It is a relatively new example of a book in HTML format. I suspect the value of that website-as-book--to Moodle--will grow, as it evolves and improves.

Summary
What I envision is an important niche market. It will not replace hand-held epub. That niche market will service other needs, like online learning (Moodle is already responding).

A website as a book can embed video. If you want to teach boat bulding or video production or photography or wood working epub is useless, because you cannot embed video. There is an important niche market for this. The options are currently limited. I doubt that will be the case forever.
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#7  DiapDealer 06-13-2020, 04:04 PM
Not being able to read offline is a huge downside that goes unmentioned. Try as they might, all server-based reading systems will eventually offer solutions for offline reading. If they don't, they're either relegated to the ultra-niche, or the almost-dead-in-the-water (and often both).

Sever-based reading systems without a client app also guarantees mobile-users won't use it. Nobody wants to read anything in a browser on a phone for any length of time at all. Heck, nobody on a phone wants to even open a browser.
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#8  pittendrigh 06-19-2020, 08:40 AM
RE> "not being able to read offline"

Yes this is a big disadvantage for any book offered in server-side HTML format. That's why what I'm talking about is a niche market.

But this issue does cut both ways. Most books (most) do not need embedded multi-media. You don't even need still photos or graphs for most books. For War and Peace all you need is ascii text.

If you want to teach skills, on the other hand, hand held epub is badly limited because--at least for now--video isn't part of the experience.

youtube is a fabulous how-to-do-it resource. You can learn how to make sourdough bread, how to edit video, build a house etc. But youtube is limited by being video only.

The instructional resources of the future need a way to combine ascii-text and multi-media together as a coherent, coordinated package. Covid-19 and the sudden surge in distance learning make this an important topic. As we speak.



==========Here's a Thought================

James Krenov was a top-of-the-line wood worker who died 30 years or so years ago. He published a series of highly-regarded "wood working" books back on the late '80s. You cannot teach someone how to do wood working using ascii text. It's too complex to describe in words. In those days the only way to learn was to become an apprentice. You absolutely inescapably needed a mentor.

So Krenov didn't try to teach wood working in his books. Instead he talked about motivation and morality (don't cut corners...always do your best work etc). And he told stories about building special pieces for famous people.

If Krenov had lived today he might even have attempted teaching outside the apprentice/mentor realm. He might have used youtube. Everybody else does now. It works. Better than anything else anyway.

Krenov was a creative guy so he might have wanted to go beyond youtube. He might have wanted to combine good writing with live stream video instruction--so he could still talk about wood-working morality. And also show you how to cut a dovetail joint or how to properly sharpen a plane blade.

What I'm talking about here is power. And the future.
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#9  dwig 06-19-2020, 10:21 AM
Quote pittendrigh
...
The instructional resources of the future need a way to combine ascii-text and multi-media together as a coherent, coordinated package. ...
... but that would in no way be a "book".
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#10  Deskisamess 06-19-2020, 10:21 AM
There are times when an actual video may help someone learn how to do something, but in my limited experience, good static pictures along with written directions can be just as helpful. More helpful if proper close-up pictures have been taken and well cropped.

I don't want to watch a video about how to make pan fried walleye. (A recent example due to a fishing trip) A picture or two with well written instructions is fine. I learn through doing, and would rather have well written directions than watch a video.

This brings up a pet peeve of mine, found on many cooking sites. 25 huge pictures that have to be scrolled through before I get to the recipe. They typically start with the finished product. Then a picture of the eggs, then the butter, then the sugar, and so on.

I'm not a fan of most online videos on blogs or news sites. I want to read the story or transcript. If watching a video is my only choice, many times I just leave. I can read way faster than most people talk. If Reader View isn't an option, I'm gone.

Oh, and the new thing I'm seeing? As I scroll down while reading, and little pop up video appears on my screen that can't be closed. Gah.

Sorry for the somewhat off topic rant.
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