As the HTML5 specification is hammered into its final form, books on the subject have some utility. Up-to-date information is best derived from technically informed sites such as WHATWG and HTML5 Doctor, but if you want to learn the basics of HTML5 from the beginning, these books are a very good start:

Now in its fourth edition, the excellent Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics by Jennifer Niederst Robbins uses HTML5 as its core language, but covers the entire gamut of web development, from sketches to servers. The book is extensive (over 1300 pages long) but not technically daunting, with easy introductions to each section, and could easily be the primary textbook for an entire set of web development courses. A useful companion site also accompanies the book.

Also published by O’Reilly, HML5 Up And Running has a more technical approach that assumes some familiarity with HTML. What may not be obvious is that the core text of the book is derived from one of the first, and best, HTML5 evangelist sites, Dive Into HTML5; the author of the site, Mark Pilgrim, largely took the original site text and edited it into dead-tree format.

HTML5 for Web DesignersI very much like and support small-press and self-published books, and in that category A Book Apart’s HTML5 for Web Designers is excellent: small, light, easy to access and relatively cheap. It’s written by Jeremy Keith, who also wrote the DOM Scripting book I recommended for JavaScript. HTML 5 For Web Designers is not for the first-time learner, but for those already familiar with XHTML or earlier versions who want to transition to the language. You can pick the book up in paper or electronic format directly from A Book Apart, while has the French translation; Keith has also placed the text of the book online read so you can read it for free).

If you have a more visual style of learning, I would strongly recommend HTML & CSS, for which I have a separate review.

When purchasing any HTML5 books it’s important that you take into account the fact that some details will change (for example, none of these recommendations mention the <main> element, due to publishing lead times). To the best of my knowledge, the canonical “from scratch” HTML5 manual has yet to be written. If you think you’ve found one, please let me know in the comments section below.

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