When a great makes book makes you yearn for the future of publishing

Jan 9, 2014
Vote on Hacker News

Typewriter

Holidays are always a good period to catch up on reading and given the launch of our forthcoming mobile app (fear not, all HTML5), I went with a book covering data management and services in an HTML5 setting. So the Kindle got loaded with HTML5 Data and Services Cookbook, written by Gori Kosev and Mite Mitreski.

The book did not disappoint.  While having a very strong technical background, the authors were able to create scenarios and settings the readers can easily relate to.  Believe me, if I managed to follow the examples, I am sure anyone can!

Each chapter in the book covers a specific scenario, starting with displaying data, all the way to data storage handling. It was also particularly refreshing to see many examples where the authors deliberately went beyond the usual approach of using jquery or a given framework and instead focused on the deeper, core, ways of handling certain data requests.

A poignant example of the authors taking the detailed explanation route rather than the easy explanation one is found in Chapter 6 (data validation). Rather than merely showing people how to use basic client-side validation, the authors go into server side validation.  Having seen many projects riddled with security holes created by focusing only on client-side validation, I hope people pay heed to this chapter and implement some of the techniques.

I have a few reservations on the book’s views on API versioning though. Rather than numbering versions, and having fallen victim to vendors that do, I am more in favor of keeping the end-users’ life simple and making all this work in the background.  However, let’s be real, API versioning is one of these topics where both sides are right and as long as your customers are happy with what you are doing.

So why did this book make me yearn for the future of publishing?  After all it has great content, I was reading it on my kindle, and the examples and tutorials are available for download.   Yet, it feels that this digital format does not do such books justice.  We are in the realm of technical material and it would be fantastic to have access to an hmtl 5 where this book could be consumed and “tested” at the same time. Imagine going through the content and, in the same interface, having access to the tutorials via something like jsfiddle.net.

Would it make sense for publishers to make the leap and invest in such platforms?  Monetization is always the key challenge and  I feel a strong platform would lead to:

  • Returning readers: People would engage in the platform (hello gamification) and would be more likely to pay for the publishers’ new content as trust and credibility are established.
  • Agile book development: How many people go through the errata or addendum sections?  Not that many I’d bet. Yet the very nature of this information is really important. In a digital setting it would be much simpler to keep the books up-to-date and refreshed without having to go through a lengthy check process or even requiring the readers to proactively find out the erroneous information.

HTML5 Data and Services Cookbook was a great read and I do recommend it if you are in the business of binding data to an HTML5 site as it will give you many concrete examples to work with and will also introduce you to helpful libraries and framework.

I hope publishing companies take a look at such a book and realize that, in turn, they could change the way we experience educational material on the web.  Guttemberg needs a challenger!