Robin Rendle: Need something to read? Here’s a neat list of books that have been published on the web.
I’ve been thinking about that relationship between books and the web for an awfully long time and there’s a part of me that’s always considered them as entirely separate objects: if I want to read a long, thoughtful and well edited piece of work then I head to the book store first. Otherwise, I’ll skim through my overwhelming collection of archived links in Instapaper. My thoughts split them up into not so much “books and the web” so much as into “books or the web”.
But whenever someone says the word “book” to me that’s what I’m thinking of: a long and thoughtful piece of text that I own forever. So ‘books’ on the web don’t really work for a number of reasons, these being amongst the problems I care about the most:
1. Link rot: websites disappear completely without maintenance and URLs stop working
2. Authors need to feed themselves: how can an author make $$$?
3. The Network: books on the web require an ever-present connection to the internet.
The first two points are super complicated and I don’t think they’ll be solved any time soon. The last point however is a different story altogether. As I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Progressive Web App movement, and particularly the introduction of the Service Worker, I’ve realized that this is no longer the case.
Service Workers are the first step towards making the web more accessible to authors of long, paid-for text. And this makes me so very happy because I believe that the web is capable of presenting ideas into more than tiny buckets of skim-read content. Now that Service Workers are here, they offer us the ability to provide an offline reading experience to everyone, and so we should jump on the opportunity and see what books on the web can really do.