HTML5 has been touted as changing the web for a while now, but will it change the way we read books?
Last year Google published the HTML5 web book "20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web" but I largely ignored it. Why would I want to read books in my browser? I read books on my phone and iPad, but even for me reading a novel through the browser might be a step too far.
However, as much of a digital convert as I am, I had not factored in just how quickly HTML5 adoption would take place in a year. Google is really pushing the adoption of HTML5 with it's Chrome desktop browser and beginning August 1st Google Apps will only support modern browsers. This means that if you're a Gmail user, you will have to be running either the current or prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari or you will not be able to get the most out of gmail.
This summer will see offline working arrive for Google Apps through the Chrome browser. This is powered by HTML5. You seen HTML5 is more than just a web page. While HTML5 allows designers to create beautiful pages and layouts, they can also build in more functionality (to the website) without requiring the user to download or install any additional software. The user simply requires a 'modern' browser. If you are using the web browser 'Chrome' you will always have the latest version. This is because Google wants (and needs) its users to be running the latest browsers so its users will get the best experience. They therefore built Chrome to auto update itself. The other major browsers already support HTML5 and will continue to do so.
I don't think I could actually read a novel on my desktop computer and I don't think HTML5 will change that. However, the web is evolving fast and is in more and more devices now. HTML5 will drive adoption of web services on devices such as phones and tablets. You know, that smartphone that you download all those apps for might not need apps in a year. When the iPhone launched without an App Store, Steve Jobs stated that with the mobile version of Safari users didn't need apps, they could do everything through the browser. While that was true to an extent, we the user and developers weren't quite ready for that. However, users are becoming used to sophisticated websites and are used to the 'app' experience. It will be easy to transition users to the web full time in a few years. There are already a lot of apps that are really just a webpage. At the end of the day, do you as a user care what the technology that drives the app is? No. All you and I care about is the experience and HTML5 will make that experience sweet!
Take Kindle as an example. Here is an app that let's you read books on any device, on any platform - and they all sync and work together to get you the best experience. You can bet your last pound (£) that Amazon will be one of the first companies that adopt HTML5 web books, if for no other reason than it will reduce their development costs. Instead of developing for many platforms, they develop for the web and the user just points their browser to their Amazon account. Simple.
There are lots of content based sites (like this one) that will benefit from web books. I could see newspapers adopting web books on masse just so they can replicate the 'paper' version. TV companies can produce slick sites that recreate that 'living room tv' set up.
My mum doesn't need to know about HTML5, she just needs to know that her experience of using the web will get better if she uses a modern browser and the sites she visits build their site with HTML5 in mind. So, to answer my own question, HTML5 web books will definitely change the way we view the web.