Publishing books on the web — the most advanced information sharing technology we have — may unlock the future of books.
Next-book aims to be a good tool for making web books. Next-book is not a service or a product, it’s a software library. It’s a tool that aims to establish basic reading affordances on the web.
What makes web books useful?
- Web books are readily usable in whatever web browser and easy to read (even offline).
- Web books enable everything “web” to become a part of a book: not only multimedia, but also scripts, advanced styles, SVGs, etc.
- Every web book is a static website (just a bunch of HTML and related files). You can upload it to any hosting and it won’t stop functioning.
What makes next-book a good tool?
- It’s easy to pick up — use the basic template to start immediately.
- It provides a lot of control over every level of experience. Customize content and UI according to your needs if you want to.
- It provides many features designed as an evolution of both paper and electronic reading.
- Its design becomes more and more robust ever since the first prototypes back in 2017.
What’s the relation between web books and next-book?
Next-book is a tool for making web books. A web book can be any long text on the web — and the more the authors care about reading experience, the more such text becomes book-ish. And we want to make the experience so book-ish that the website becomes a book.
Next-book is not a service — in startup terms, this is no “Medium for books”. It’s not even a startup (we’re a [non-profit](link)). It may eventually underpin such a service, but first, there need to be some good book-ish websites… or web books. Chicken and egg all over again.
Last thing: what makes a website book-ish? The answer is simple: all the things that make a book book-ish and more — we don’t know lies ahead. We read a lot of books about reading books to find out.
Next-book is a set of several libraries. The three most important are:
- boilerplate is the basic template for a book that is easy to use (with some web development knowledge), however also provides complete control over the result if needed
- publisher takes a HTML website and produces a bound web book (integrates metadata, adds navigational information etc.)
- interface provides user interface in the book (TOC, config, bookmarks, offline mode etc.)
Beside these, we have a configurable epub to next-book converter (github) and we’re exploring the options for providing a cloud-sync for readers across their books (github).
It’s not healthy to describe software using its functionality, but it helps the imagination. So we have a few listed here:
- focused reading mode („persistent pagination“)
- seamless offline mode
- visual user customization framework (color schema, font size) even with advanced styles
- robust CSS to underpin glorious book designs
- table of contents and navigation
- keeping reading position
- bookmarks, highlights and notes
- return to last-read position after checking another part of the book
- footnotes (soon: bibliography and various indices)