The Modern Web by Peter Gasston is a series of quick, concise summaries of new and upcoming features that are part of the HTML5 standard, as well as several new browser features like CSS3 that are often lumped in wth HTML5 (a shortcut I will use for this review in the interests of brevity.) The book opens with a review of the basics of the HTML 5 spec; there’s nothing new here for an experienced HTML 5 developer, but it’s an excellent introduction for a new web developer or one who can (and still is) writing the 4.01 DTDs from memory.
From there, the book breaks the components of HTML 5 into several general topics, such as document structure, CSS3, and the new HTML 5 APis, and talks about the new features of each, as well as discussing the competing standards where they exist. While the author certainly doesn’t hold back from expressing his opinion, particularly when there are competing standards, he’s very diligent about separating technical information from his views.
The book’s mosts useful sections are probably the chapters that deal with the mobile web; chapters on device-responsive CSS design, accessing device apis like battery status, vibration, and camera functions, and a quick review of the different strategies behind developing applications for mobile devices will give any developer the basic knowledge necessary to start making decisions and writing code.
Structurally, each chapter of the book is self contained, with a quick introduction to the topic, details about the feature, a summary, and resources for further reading and links to related content. It’s formulaic, and the introduction and summary blocks get awfully repetitive (and so the summary feels like padding) but it also means you’re not flipping through the book when you need some quick information on a given topic. While a book like this is often out of date before it even reaches the printers, much less by the time it reaches readers, Gasston has done a good job of discussing the main paths that future development could take, which should increase its shelf life as a useful book. If you’re looking to get started in modern web development, The Modern Web is a great book to read.