I've got a lot of ebooks in PDF and other formats, but some ereaders - like, oh, this iPad I just bought - only support specific formats with their default reader apps. What's the best way to convert those PDFs to ePub?
Sheepishly Sporting an iPad
The fact is, ebooks are still going through a lot of growing pains, which often leaves ebook early adopters like you in the lurch. As the always excellent Matt Buchanan over at Gizmodo explained, the ebook industry is in a place much like the music industry was in the late '90s: Everyone's looking for a standard format they can all agree on, DRM is getting in the way, and - for the moment, at least - it looks like ePub is as close to the MP3 of ebooks as it comes. Unfortunately, ePub is the only ebook format iTunes accepts (again, for now). On the plus side, ePub is a free and open standard, which is a very good thing - though DRM can still muck up ePub, so it's not all roses and puppy dogs.
The point is, even though in an ideal world ebook readers could handle virtually any format effortlessly and without any extra work on the users' part, there are worse things you could convert your ebooks to than ePub. So without further ado, here's how you can convert nearly any (non-DRMed) ebook format into ePub. (Note: These steps focus on PDF-to-ePub conversion, but the same basic strategy can help you convert nearly any ebook from one format to another, provided it's not protected by DRM.)
- Download and install Calibre, the free and cross-platform ebook management tool we've featured a couple times before.
- The first time you start Calibre, select Default as your device type. (See screenshot below.) You could get more specific, but I found going with default worked fine for me, and I wanted to keep this as device agnostic as possible.
- Drag and drop the ebook you want to convert to ePub into Calibre, edit any metadata if it's not already to your liking (right-click the book in Calibre and select Edit meta information -> Edit metadata individually), then click the Convert E-books button in the toolbar.
- Verify that you've got the correct Input/Output formats: On the far left of the Convert window, you'll see the Input format. On the far right, you'll see the Output format. The input format should default to the format the ebook is already in, and the output format should default to EPUB. If it's not, just choose EPUB from the drop-down.
- Convert! When everything looks how you like it (you can change the book cover if you're not happy with how it looks here), click OK and let the conversion roll.
- Move Your New ePub Book to Your Device: Once the conversion's complete, right-click your newly converted book and select Open containing folder to find your new ePub-formatted ebook. You can stop here if all you wanted was to convert the ebook to ePub. If you're an iTunes/iPad user and you want to get that ePub book on your device, simply drag and drop the converted ePub book into iTunes. If you're using an iPad, plug it in, make sure you've got iBooks installed, and just drag the book from iTunes to your iPad in the iTunes sidebar under Devices.
- Enjoy! And that's it. Next time you launch iBooks, you should see your newly converted ePub ebook, ready to read.
(Click the image above for a closer look.)
It's clearly not a perfect method, but huge thanks go to the developers behind Calibre for making it a relatively painless process — especially at a time when ebook standards are still this unformed.
Hope that helps!
Love and reading,
P.S. Got a preferred method of your own for converting ebooks from one format to another, let's hear about it in the comments.