Most mobile devices can display PDF documents just fine. Some mobile devices, or at least the apps on these devices, show things just tad nicer when the document is formatted in the ePUB format.
In this article, for Windows, MacOS X and Linux, we will show you how to easily convert a PDF document to a ePUB document for use with your mobile device (Android, iPhone, iPad, etc) or computer.
Note : The tools used in this article also support other formats (Kindle, Doc, TXT, HTML, MOBI, etc.).
PDF versus ePUB
PDF and ePUB files are intended to store documents holding text and images.
Both of them are commonly used for creating an electronic version of a book, manual, or flyer, and are most certainly suitable for other purposes as well.
PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a complex (internally) file format, as it is much more advanced in defining it’s page layout (PostScript based) and focussed on accurate reproduction (screen or printed).
ePUB can be seen as a bundled “webpage” (HTML based), including HTML, CSS, and Image files. These files are nicely zipped together as a single file. ePUB seems more focussed on screen display.
ePUB versions of a given document can be significantly smaller than their PDF counterpart, which is not just because of the fact that the bundle is compressed but also because the page description is much more simplified when compared to PDF files.
Both PDF and ePUB documents have the ability to embed a particular font, so that a non-standard font can be used as well.
Tip : An overview of PDF, ePUB and other eBook formats can be found on this Wiki page.
PDF to ePUB conversion options
PDF documents can be converted to ePUB and most of the time that works pretty good, although not always perfect.
For conversion of a PDF to ePUB, you can use either a dedicated application on your computer or an online service, of which some are free and others are commercial.
PDF to ePUB conversion is not always required …
To use your documents on a mobile device, conversion to ePUB is not a requirement. Most mobile devices are capable of displaying PDF documents just fine. Test your PDF file first on yoru device before doing the effort of converting it.
Beside compatibility: certain mobile applications, handle ePUB documents differently than PDF documents and ePUB documents are often displayed like “real” books.
One of the most commonly used applications to work with ePUB files is probably Calibre.
Calibre is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and offer a wealth of tools and functions to work with ePUB files.
ePUB Converter by AniceSoft, which is free and available for Windows and Mac OS X, is much more simple in it’s use and a little bit more limited when it comes to conversion settings. Therefor it is the easiest application to work with of these two options.
For conversions that require fine tuning I do recommend Calibre, for quick and for straight forward and easy conversion ePub Converter is the way to go.
Online Services for Conversion
Some online services offer PDF to ePUB conversion. Most of these services are free, but some come with limitations like for example the maximum file size:
Convert PDF to ePUB with AniceSoft ePUB Converter
Before we can start with AniceSoft ePUB Converter we will of course need to download it.
As usual, we offer it here at Tweaking4All as a backup plan, but I strongly urge you to download the most recent version from the AniceSoft website.
Download - AniceSoft EPub Converter (MacOS X)
Download - AniceSoft EPub Converter (Windows)
The following screenshots are done with the Mac OS X version 10.0.2, the Windows version looks very similar.
Converting PDF to ePUB
After downloading, installing and starting the AniceSoft ePUB Converter, you will see a screen like this:
AniceSoft ePub Convert – Start Screen
The conversion process is simple:
- Click the “Add Files” button (green plus symbol, upper left corner) and select your PDF document.
- In the list highlight your document by clicking it once.
- Set your preferred Output Type on the right (EPUB).
- Click the “Start” button (bottom right).
And that’s all there is to it.
Converting PDF to ePUB with Calibre
Calibre is a much more advanced tool than AniceSoft ePUB converter, but with the default settings I’ve noticed that the end result is comparable.
As usual we offer the download from Tweaking4All as well, for Windows and Mac OS X.
I do highly urge you to download the latest version from the Calibre website though, where you’ll also find a portable Windows version and a 64-bit Windows version.
Download - Calibre (MacOS X)
Download - Calibre (Windows)
Ubuntu users can find Calibre in the “Ubuntu Software Center“.
Other Linux variations should follow the instructions on the Calibre website, but in a nutshell you’ll need to install through the command line (one single line!):
sudo python -c "import sys; py3 = sys.version_info > 2; u = __import__('urllib.request' if py3 else 'urllib', fromlist=1); exec(u.urlopen('http://status.calibre-ebook.com/linux_installer').read()); main()"
Converting PDF to ePUB
After downloading, installing and starting Calibre, you will see a start screen similar to the one illustrated below.
Keep in mind that although the screenshots are based off the Mac OS X (version 1.24.0), your Windows and Linux version should look comparable.
Calibre – Start Screen
Conversion, if you don’t want to dig in all kinds of fancy settings, is pretty easy.
First we need to add our PDF files (books) to the Calibre book list by clicking the “Add Books” button and selecting your PDF file(s). Once loaded, we highlight the book(s) we’d like to convert in the Calibre book list and click the “Convert Books” button.
A new window will open offering a boat load of options like output format, look and feel, cover image, etc.
For a first time conversion, just go with the default settings. Once you’ve tested your first conversion on your iPad or iPhone, you’ll better understand what all these options mean.
Calibre – Conversion Options
Make sure to set the “Output Format” to “ePUB“.
Additional fields like “Title” and “Tags” are worth filling in properly.
One option worthwhile looking at is the target screen size/type, which can be set under “Page Setup“.
Tip : For iPhone and iPad non-Retina screens choose “iPad“, for Retina screens choose “iPad3“.
Calibre – Fine tune the conversion to the target screen size
Once all settings are done, click “OK” and conversion starts.
During conversion, you will see a “Jobs” indicator in the lower right corner of the Calibre window. Clicking this indicator will open up a window with information concerning the conversion progress. This window will also show previous conversions.
calibre – Conversion in progress and monitor window
Previewing ePUB files on your computer
Conversion is all nice and dandy of course, but a preview before uploading it to your iPhone or Adnroid phone would be nice.
There are a few tools out there to preview an ePUB file on your computer.
For Mac OS X users: please upgrade to at least Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) which comes with iBooks. Adobe offers “Adobe Digital Editions” which can be downloaded for free and is suitable for Windows and Mac OS X. ePubReader is a great little application available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux is, which is free as well.
Calibre has a preview option build-in as well. You will notice that when selecting a book from the Calibre list, that on the right side of your screen a thumbnail is shown of that book. Under the author name(s) you will see a “Formats” list.
For each of the listed formats, you can simply double click the format name to open a preview.
Calibre – Book thumbnail and available formats
ePUB Readers for mobile devices
There are plenty of apps out there that allow you to read ePUB and PDF documents.
With each of these apps, you’ll have to keep in mind if you need the ability to read DRM (Digital Rights Management a.k.a. copy protection) for purchased ePUB documents, as not all apps support this.
Note : On both Android and iOS platform, to my surprise, the Kindle app does not support the ePUB format.
These are some of the top rated ePUB/eBook readers for the Android platform.
Some of these apps are also available in a commercial version and most apps offer in-app purchases of eBooks.
For iPhone and iPad devices the obvious choice is iBooks, which is a free eBooks app offered by Apple.
A full overview of other eBook readers (not ePUB specific!) can be found on this wiki page.