HTML / XHTML Books Help

Did you figure it out yet?..I’d like your help on deciding whether I need to invest in anymore HTML / XHTML books and if so, which ones to buy. I understand that most HTML / XHTML books come along with CSS included but I’m really looking for books that primarily focus on HTML / XHTML on their own.

I’m not looking for beginner books on HTML / XHTML because I wouldn’t call myself a beginner. I’d say I’m pretty fluent in HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 - I can hand code a HTML 4.01 WC3 Strict valid Website (and the same for XHTML 1.0) in Microsoft Notepad without any prompts or help from cheat sheets.

I’m really looking for books that are going to help me refine my skills and knowledge on HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 only. Strictly no (X)HTML 5 books! I’ve had a look on Amazon and I’m just not too sure that there are any books that I can find that would justify the cost of the books. I know that I’m not a master of HTML which is why I’m happy to invest more money into learning materials to master the markup language. I’m looking to buy no more than 5 books. I already own (and have read but don’t own) HTML books and what I guess I’m asking for is your own list of HTML / XHTML books that you’d recommend as the only book you need for mastering the language.

I’ve created a shortlist of books below that I’d like feedback on from you lovely guys and girls and if there’s a book you know on HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 that I should definitely buy that I haven’t listed in this shortlist or haven’t listed in the list of books I already own then please tell me.

Feel free to suggest / recommend a list of books from this list as I won’t just be buying one, unless that particular one book is the only one I need. All of the links go to so you can see the prices in UK British pounds - my budget is around £80.

Books I Currently Own

Yea, not a lot actually. Most of my learning of HTML / XHTML has come from various online Websites, tutorials, articles, blogs and the like as well as college. I’ve been using HTML since 2007 and don’t have any problems with any Web pages validating as HTML 4.01 Strict or XHTML 1.0 Strict.

I can’t seem to find any one book that focuses specifically on HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 in a Strict way, including a reference which doesn’t have wasted pages on deprecated and proprietary elements. Maybe some of you can help me find the book, reference book or even better - Website that I’m looking for.

My Shortlist

And one for on top of HTML / XHTML - Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0

Halp pls. kthnxbye.

Andrew Cooper

If you can hand code a valid and semantically appropriate website in notepad, what more do you have to learn? HTML is strictly a syntax thing, and it’s a very basic markup. Once you’ve mastered it, well, you’ve mastered it and all that’s left is moving up to higher level concepts that aren’t what an HTML book is about. Seems to me you’d be wasting time on this unless your career is being a conference speaker on HTML. You can spend that time on something that would be more helpful to your personal or business growth.

The Ultimate HTML Reference, which is a book published by SitePoint is the only book which I’m aware of which is just HTML. It’s also covered by the [URL=“”]HTML Reference section on the SitePoint website.

I’d agree, at the point your at I would say the best way to refine your skills is applying what you have learned to real life problems without definitive answers. Your not going to master anything by reading books. Mastering something amounts to repetition of doing things on your own. Books are a great starting point but once your beyond a certain point they can almost hinder development than help it.

I think there’s always merit in reading a comprehensive “grammar” of any language, as there’s likely to be things under the hood that one hadn’t heard of before. I was going to mention the Ultimate HTML Reference too, but that’s done.

I think a book on this would be quite interesting, as you’d probably learn more about existing languages at the same time.

I’ve just heard that in the next month or so, Zeldman is going to publish the first A Book Apart volume, which will be all about HTML5, by Jeremy Keith. These are short, to-the-point books (60 to 80 pages), and I’m looking forward to that, as Keith is an exceptional author.

I recommend you read the Technical Recommendations including:

Seriously, read through the above in fairly great-depth… You will be surprised what you will learn. It is enlightening stuff when “properly” read-through although it’s not bedtime material.

As for the ‘SP HTML Reference section’ it has a lot missing regarding attributes, i.e. it doesn’t seem to cover them all.

Really, I suppose you are wanting to learn more on (x)html markup semantics.

Well, how would you define semantically appropriate? Perhaps I’ve mastered the syntax, but have yet to master using appropriate semantics where necessary. What do you mean by higher level concepts? If I did want to be a conference speaker on HTML (which I don’t) then what should I be looking at learning next if I’ve mastered the syntax of HTML?

Hey, thanks for the link and suggestion but I’m aware of The Ultimate HTML Reference book from SitePoint. I was going to purchase the printed book but it wastes a lot of pages on deprecated elements which I don’t believe need to be discussed and put me off buying it. I often use the HTML Reference section of the SitePoint Website as it is helpful but it could be much smaller and relevant if only strict elements and attributes were in the reference.

So you’re saying there isn’t much else to learn about HTML and to just use it / practice using it? Surely there’s more for me to learn. I know it’s pretty basic as a markup language but it is fairly broad I would say.

Comprehensive “grammar”? Expand please? Do you know any books that would qualify as a “Comrehensive Grammar” book on HTML?

I regularly read blogs, articles (online and print) as well as keeping up to date with the current HTML 5 draft to gain a better understanding on HTML as a whole but I won’t be buying any (X)HTML 5 books until HTML 5 is a Technical Recommendation. If you mean I should keep up or learn (X)HTML 5 then fair enough, but I’m strictly against buying a book about something that changes almost every day and isn’t a standard yet. I’d like to master HTML 4.01 first (hence this thread on books for mastering HTML 4.01 ;)) before I start learning HTML 5 - A language that isn’t even a standard, yet :p. Thanks for the suggestion though!

Heh, I think I’ve seen that on the main home page of the Website too. Jeremy Keith is indeed an exceptional author, I love his DOM Scripting book. Maybe if the price is right I’ll buy it as I know it’ll be a great read - But I don’t intend on investing heavily into (X)HTML 5 resources yet.

Heh, I think probably the best suggestion so far really in terms of what I believe. I don’t believe I’m a master of HTML yet so surely there must be something I can read / learn. When you say “properly” read-through what do you mean? I’ve read through both of them Technical Recommendations, indeed they are definitely not bedtime material, heck they aren’t even focused-concentrated-and-motivated-to-learn material! But I’ve read through them nontheless, maybe I should read through them a couple more times as they aren’t easy to understand completely. Although reading through the current HTML 5 draft helps in understanding some of what the HTML 4.01 TR is trying to tell us.

I’d love it if Ian Lloyd / SitePoint released a second edition of The Ultimate HTML Reference and included the small missing parts as well as exclude all of the deprecated and proprietary sections which don’t need to be included! If that happened I’d definitely buy a copy! :smiley: …If only!

Indeed. I don’t know how this will sound, I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant or anything but I’ve definitely got the elements and attributes off to a tea! And as I said I have no problems marking up a HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 W3C Strict valid document. I don’t think I have any problems with semantics either much, but I’m not so confident with semantics as I am with knowing the elements and attributes. A good book on HTML Semantics would perhaps be the the next step for my learning? Can anyone suggest a good book on HTML Semantics, please?

Cheers for the help so far guys…Yes…That means I’m expecting some more help! :stuck_out_tongue: Hehe

Andrew Cooper

I basically mean read them carefully and from cover-to-cover although a lot of it you will know and get fed-up with or bored rigid… Though there are four or five important and very good sections of text in there – obviously depending on what you know already affects that. I know you know about the Elements/Tags but still there are important pieces buried in there. Even look at the odd RFC.

Reading more Web Accessibility material will possibly help with semantics. You are probably doing most of this anyway but it doesn’t harm to reiterate.

Andrew, sorry for the late reply, I only own ONE book purely on HTML and I can recommend it highly:

HTML Mastery: Semantics, Standards, & Styling

It’s a fantastic resource if you want to understand all the HTML elements better (in terms of semantic values), it has a whole section on microformats - IMO important to HTML developers - and it’s the best written title I’ve read on the subject. Stuff like Web Standards Solutions and Designing with Web Standards are also good reads, but their more generic to the best-practices of both HTML, CSS and some JavaScript :slight_smile:

I’d recommend reading the html 4.01 spec. Also, Alex has stated a pretty good html book (HTML Mastery).

Excellent suggestion, Robert, though not the most entertaining reading…

Absolutely! Actually I don’t get fed-up or bored reading them, on the contrary it’s very interesting and because of the challenge in trying to understand exactly what the TR is saying I find it interesting to re-read parts I’ve previously read. What everyone says about the TR’s in general is true but I think if you’re determined to read them then you won’t have many problems - I’ve often had to crack open the dictionary or Google a term to understand what they’re saying in the TR. But at least I get it afterwards.

As for Web Accessibility, I’m getting some fresh black ink soon to print off WCAG 2.0 and have a thorough read through that including the notes and other related documents.

Thanks for the recommendation Alex, it does look like a really good book that would definitely help me. I’d be much more confident and happy if there was a 2nd Edition that was much more focused on HTML Strict and excluded sections like the one on Frames and XHTML 2.0 but I’ll be ordering this tommorow anyway!

Heck, you know I’ve read it a couple of times already and there is definitely material in there that I’ve still yet to completely understand. I might just print it off along with WCAG 2.0 :slight_smile: And I’m ordering HTML Mastery tommorow :wink:

You’re telling me! Ha! It’s an interesting and very informative read though which is what makes it so good, beside it being the Technical Recommendation!

Well thanks for the help guys! I’m happy with the help I’ve received here and I’m confident that I can master HTML 4.01 through practice with the help of HTML Mastery: Semantics, Standards, & Styling as well as the [URL=“”]HTML 4.01 Technical Recommendation. I hope others can take away from this thread what I have!

Andrew Cooper

Thanks for the recommendation Alex, it does look like a really good book that would definitely help me. I’d be much more confident and happy if there was a 2nd Edition that was much more focused on HTML Strict and excluded sections like the one on Frames and XHTML 2.0 but I’ll be ordering this tommorow anyway!

Honestly there doesn’t need to be a second edition as far as I can see, it recommends strict document types as it is, and while frames are included, it does so mainly for reference and their stuffed at the back of the book in the “other stuff - probably want to leave well alone” section! In regards to WCAG, if you wanted a decent book on web accessibility I recommend “Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance” by FriendsOfED, it’s several hundred pages thick and it covers every square inch of accessibility from end to end (from the tools people use to the laws you should aim to comply with - that and it documents extensively Section 508 and WCAG). It’s what WaSP (Web Standards Project) recommends in their curriculum and I can recommend it as the best accessibility title on the shelves too. :slight_smile:

I agree wholeheartedly with you there Alex and I’ve considered buying it perhaps up to 10 times in the past year but I’ve stopped myself short of ordering it because in terms of WCAG, it’s now out of date. I don’t think that general Web accessibility would have changed over the course of the past 4 years from what is covered in that book but it doesn’t appeal to me as much anymore. I’d definitely read it if I could get a hold of a free copy or buy it from a different seller than Amazon itself at a cheaper price. Which I can. Maybe I will do.

Would you say the book is still relevant to Web Accessibility today though?

Cheers for the recommendation on that too!

Andrew Cooper

Web accessibility is a pretty dynamic topic (to be honest), while the laws and standards (like WCAG) change, the general acceptance that people have different needs and taking them into account is the single most important part of the theoretical ethos it holds. Much in the way of usability, just because best practices, guidelines, patterns and conventions change… it doesn’t mean the information becomes irrelevant. That’s part of what I love about theoretical web design (UX / Accessibility / Usability / IA) It’s all about gathering research, evidence, and the end users perspective and building a picture. WCAG2 may have been released but WCAG1 isn’t deprecated or out of date, their both relevant and have very good justification for use, you just need to understand that what you do needs to meet audience needs, not check boxes in some W3C specification. So yes I would say the book is still relevant and it probably always will be (even if stuff disappears like old laws, etc). :slight_smile: