How-To Geek

Convert a PDF eBook to ePub Format for Your iPad, iPhone, or eReader

Would you like to read a PDF eBook on an eReader or mobile device, but aren’t happy with the performance? Here’s how you can convert your PDFs to the popular ePub format so you can easily read them on any device.

PDFs are a popular format for eBooks since they render the same on any device and can preserve the exact layout of the print book.  However, this benefit is their major disadvantage on mobile devices, as you often have to zoom and pan back and forth to see everything on the page.  ePub files, on the other hand, are an increasingly popular option. They can reflow to fill your screen instead of sticking to a strict layout style.  With the free Calibre program, you can quickly convert your PDF eBooks to ePub format.

Getting Started

Download the Calibre installer (link below) for your operating system, and install as normal.  Calibre works on recent versions of Windows, OS X, and Linux.  The Calibre installer is very streamlined, so the install process was quite quick.


Calibre is a great application for organizing your eBooks.  It can automatically sort your books by their metadata, and even display their covers in a Coverflow-style viewer.


To add an eBook to your library, simply drag-and-drop the file into the Calibre window, or click Add books at the top.  Here you can choose to add all the books from a folder and more.


Calibre will then add the book(s) to your library, import the associated metadata, and organize them in the catalog.


Convert your Books

Once you’ve imported your books into Calibre, it’s time to convert them to the format you want.  Select the book or books you want to convert, and click Convert E-books.  Select whether you want to convert them individually or bulk convert them.


The convertor window has lots of options, so you can get your ePub book exactly like you want.  You can simply click Ok and go with the defaults, or you can tweak the settings.

Do note that the conversion will only work successfully with PDFs that contain actual text.  Some PDFs are actually images scanned in from the original books; these will appear just like the PDF after the conversion, and won’t be any easier to read.


On the first tab, you’ll notice that Calibre will repopulate most of the metadata fields with info from your PDF.  It will also use the first page of the PDF as the cover.  Edit any of the information that may be incorrect, and add any additional information you want associated with the book.

If you want to convert your eBook to a different format other than ePub, Calibre’s got you covered, too.  On the top right, you can choose to output the converted eBook into a many different file formats, including the Kindle-friendly MOBI format.


One other important settings page is the Structure Detection tab.  Here you can choose to have it remove headers and footers in the converted book, as well as automatically detect chapter breaks.


Click Ok when you’ve finished choosing your settings and Calibre will convert the book.  This may take a few minutes, depending on the size of the PDF.  If the conversion seems to be taking too long, you can click Show job details for more information on the progress.


The conversion usually works good, but we did have one job freeze on us.  When we checked the job details, it indicated that the PDF was copy-protected.  Most PDF eBooks, however, worked fine.


Now, back in the main Calibre window, select your book and save it to disk.  You can choose to save only the EPUB format, or you can select Save to disk to save all formats of the book to your computer.


You can also view the ePub file directly in Calibre’s built-in eBook viewer.  This is the PDF book we converted, and it looks fairly good in the converted format.  It does have some odd line breaks and some misplaced numbers, but on the whole, the converted book is much easier to read, especially on small mobile devices.


Even images get included inline, so you shouldn’t be missing anything from the original eBook.



Calibre makes it simple to read your eBooks in any format you need. It is a project that is in constant development, and updates regularly adding better stability and features.  Whether you want to ready your PDF eBooks on a Sony Reader, Kindle, netbook or Smartphone, your books will now be more accessible than ever.  And with thousands of free PDF eBooks out there, you’ll be sure to always have something to read.

If you’d like some Geeky PDF eBooks, Microsoft Press is offering a number of free PDF eBooks right now.  Check them out at this link (Account Required).

Download the Calibre eBook program

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 06/10/10

Comments (13)

  1. Doctor

    woot finally somthing good to do after exams :D

  2. SquareWheel

    Just to let you know, 4.0 will support PDFs in the ebook reader.

  3. SquareWheel

    Er, that’s iOS v4. Sorry, I should have specified.

  4. Roddor

    I have been receiving your how to on my windows xp pc for a long time brilliant! Have bought iPad and hope u will include a few hints & recd apps in due course. Keep up the good work

  5. Manish

    Thanks a Lot dear champ:))

  6. becky

    Thank you soo much, having just had my kindle delivered i was eager to use and dissapointed that i couldnt make the text bigger on pdf’s, i heard about calibre and dowloaded it, but was confused about what to do with it. Thankyou for you help:)

  7. Roshelle

    No matter what I do, I can’t ever get my epubs converted properly. I’ve finally begun to use Stanza on my iPhone and cringed at the amount of broken paragraphs and headers in my epubs. I checked around and found the regex’s to get rid of the headers, but when i’ve got 30+ books to convert, I don’t have time going through and editing the strings for every single book. I feel hopeless.

  8. Marc Woodland

    As Kovid Goyal states in his Calibre manual pdfs are the very very worse to convert. I have a number of excellent books and a large number of scientific papers all in pdf – I would like to read on my Sony Reader (ebook format) – I have yet to successfully convert a single one. Which somewhat negates the value of my reader. But HEY what do you expect from Adobe

  9. Argos

    Well Adobe’s PDF format is quite excellent at what it does. It was never designed with e-readers in mind.
    Adobe can’t be held responsible for the difficulties that exist when converting PDF to other formats when they actually never intended that to happen. One can only hope that in the future Adobe will make the PDF format easier to handle by e-readers. I think they will have to, considering the growing popularity of these devices.
    For now, the larger 9 inch and up readers are best for use with PDF. Sony tries to accommodate the users of PDF by implementing a zoom function and a margin crop function on their readers that works quite well.
    Also it depends highly on the internal structure of the PDF document whether they can be easily converted to PDF without the necessity of post processing editing. Some PDF translate almost perfectly to epub, others are a disaster and unusable without extensive manual editing and reformatting.

  10. Bryce Collins

    Remember that not all eReaders use ePub. It is really important in your eBook formatting process you go PDF to ePub but you also need to get other formats such as HTML, Mobiepocket, as well as others. Also eBook formatting has to be done right for the success of the eBook so it is sometimes easier depending on the person to use an ebook service site such as to save you time money and to make sure it is done 100% correctly.

  11. Pranav

    Gr8 software ……….. thanQ ……
    very user friendly…….

  12. Jim Magwood

    If we convert a PDF to ePub and others with Convert and save them in our own compouter, can we then send the ePub book to someone else? I’m an author trying to sell from my own site in formats all others can use.

  13. ant

    Tried to open my converted epub files on my Android and says that no app can open this kind of files. Any suggestions?

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