How to: Convert PDF files to ePub for iBook

By on October 13, 2010
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Have PDFs? Here’s how you can properly read them on your iPhone/iPad.

Among the other features that ‘sealed the deal’ for me to get an iPhone 4 was Apple’s native book store iBooks. Not only can you purchase from a wide variety of books from the iBook Store but the app is an extremely capable reader, too. It supports bookmarks, table of contents, change of fonts and font sizes, and more importantly, quick easy access to a dictionary! The idea of carrying multiple books on a small gadget that I could swipe out and start reading anytime anywhere seemed perfect.

That was until I transferred my pre-owned PDF eBooks.

iBooks isn’t a good PDF reader at all. Most if not all of its features goes missing on a PDF file, plus you are required to zoom in and adjust page size on each page you turn. Not an ideal solution for my reading. Disappointed, I found solace in some free PDF reader apps like Files Lite that seemed to do a better job than iBooks in reading my PDF files but it still wasn’t perfect.

Then, just as I was about to clear space in my cupboard for my potential reads, I stumbled upon Calibre.

Calibre is an ‘ebook management’ software that makes your PDF files compatible with popular eBook readers like Kindle, iPad/iPhone, Bookeen, etc. In this case, it managed to convert all my PDF ebooks to iBook compatible ePub files without a hitch, and with its built-in iTunes implementation, transferring the freshly converted files was painless and hassle free.

If you have PDF files that you would like to carry with you, here is how can convert them for use with the iBook:

Things you’ll need:
Calibre, Windows/Linux/Mac, iPad or iPhone 4

Continue to the next page to get the step-by-step process through the software.

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Mufaddal Fakhruddin is the Editor for IGN ME and thinks writing in third person about himself in an about me section is weird.

  • Plymouthian

    This is pretty cool for certain situations, but if you’re primarily using pdfs then you might as well just pay the 59p for Goodreader – it blows ibooks out the water in every way as a reader

    • Mufaddal Fakhruddin

      Thanks for the suggestion, mate! Will look into the app.

  • Todd

    You really ought to point out that PDF conversion generally sucks, but Calibre has options to help with that. A straight-forward PDF conversion like the article suggests rarely works satisfactorily, leaving page headers and footers in place, not wrapping lines correctly, etc. This is not Calibre’s fault, but the fault of publishers who believe PDF is a valid ebook format.

    To work around PDF conversion issues, you have to play with the line unwrap factor (a value between 0 and 1, with .5 being the default that usually works) and regular expressions for headers and footers. Since Calibre is written in Python, the regular expression syntax is that used by Python and you can find decent tutorials on the web. Calibre also has a built-in tester so you can test your regular expression without having to fully convert the book only to find out that it didn’t do what you wanted.

    Finally, many (most?) PDF files will be DRM-protected. Calibre can’t read those. You’ll have to find a way to rip the DRM off before you feed it into Calibre for conversion. Google here is your friend (hint: Adobe’s DRM is called ADEPT, but it’s really … “inept”).

    • Todd

      Oh yeah, and forget about iBooks. It’s a terrible, terrible reader. Download Stanza instead.

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