MacMost Now 395: Converting Books to EPUB Format

If you use iBooks on your iPad or iPhone, you can only read books in EPUB format. If you have books in text or PDF format you may want to convert them to EPUB so you can read them in iBooks. You can do this with Calibre, a free open-source e-book library application.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 395: Converting Books to EPUB Format.

Hi. This is Gary From MacMost Now. On today's episode let's convert text and PDF files into EPUB format. So the Ibook app on both the iPad and the iPhone uses the format called EPUB, which is this open format that is great for e-book readers. Now it makes them different than PDF files, PDF lay out everything precisely so they look exactly the same no matter where you view them. EPUB is a different animal, what it does it allows the text to flow depending on the size of the text, size of the page and all sorts of different factors. So you can actually adjust how you read a book and you can read it on different size screen devices. so how do you get one of your files, say you have a text file or a PDF file, you get it into EPUB format so you can view it using iBooks. Well you have to use a conversion program.
Let's go and take a look at one.
So there are many programs which can do this, the one i am going to use is called Calibre. You can get it at
So lets now import a book. I am going to do it in a text file format, to be the simplest. Just drag and drop in there and it will add it to your library then if i select the file you can see things are off or unknown and its got no information because it is simply a text file.
I can see at the bottom I've got the format its simply TXT. Now i can edit the information of the book and give it a title.
Now it makes a little more sense there.
now to convert it to EPUB format I can select "Convert e-books", "Convert Individually". and i can choose on the left the input format as TXT. On the right EPUB. I can change the title and author and things like that and give it some more specific EPUB format field here. Select ok. And it will work for a minute and when it's done. You see i got it selected and there is 2 formats EPUB and TXT.
So now to get it to my iPad, i choose "Save to disk" and i can choose " save only EPUB format to disk".
It will ask me to choose a destination directory. I'll just save it to the desktop and it will save it out and what I've got is a folder here. and inside the folder is the name of the book and in there is the EPUB formatted file. I can drag and drop that into itunes and sync with my iPad or iPhone. And i will have the book available in iBooks.
Now you can also convert PDF files. So here is a PDF file of a book that you may have purchased as a PDF document. Drag it in to Calibre and it will bring it in and then you got the same thing here where it's just unknown author and you can set the meta information. Let's just quickly convert it into an e-book. So we will convert it individually. it will show us convert from pdf format to EPUB format. Give us a chance to change the information here . We click ok. It will take a little longer to convert this much larger book with graphics in it. and when it's done we will have both a PDF and EPUB format in our Calibre library. so now that we are done. We can select "View" and we can view in a specific format. We can choose the EPUB format. We can see its differs greatly from the PDF format. This is a Calibre e-book viewer and if we go through this we can see that the text is reformatted to fit in a page and you can change the font size for instance to make it easier to read. Where as we view the PDF version of the file. You'll simply launch it in preview and we actually have it well formatted exactly as you would see it in the printed version of the book.
So if you have a PDF version of a book, you may consider not reading it iBooks at all on your iPad or iPhone but use Good Reader or any PDF viewer and viewing it in that. But if you do want to convert it to EPUB just keep in mind you will lose some of the formatting although all the text will be there.
Now for something like a textbook or something you downloaded from Gutenberg then you can convert it to EPUB format and it works great. Course it also works great if you have something that's not a traditionally published book. Like say a research paper, maybe something you wrote , maybe a report from work. You can convert it to the EPUB format and use iBooks to read it.
Hope you found this useful. Til Next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 10 Responses to “MacMost Now 395: Converting Books to EPUB Format”

    Joshua Needham
    9 years ago

    I found the setting to be a bit daunting. I have used it for a couple of technical books but wasn’t to happy with the result. I’m thinking some refinement in the setup of setting would help but really couldn’t find any info on it anywhere.

    9 years ago

    Why not just use Goodreader? Formatting is unchanged, and it is simple to get your PDF books on your iPad.

      9 years ago

      I say that at the end of the video — use Goodreader for better PDF viewing. But some PDFs are nothing more than text wrapped inside a PDF. For those, it might be nice to convert to EPUB so you can resize and reflow the text in an e-book reader like iBooks. It can make for a nicer reading experience.

    9 years ago

    Calibre as in the calibre of a gun or the standard reached by something. I believe in American English it is spelled caliber – none the less same pronunciation – cal-i-ber

      9 years ago

      The name comes from “libre” as in library. That’s why I pronounced it as such. I see now that the developer wants it pronounced “caliber” anyway. I onder why? Anyway, as long as the URL shown works, the pronounciation error won’t matter too much.

    9 years ago

    Gary, how can I get a copy of your book on pdf? I have the paper copy.

    9 years ago

    Very cool and helpful!
    Thank you Gary.

    9 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    Great tutorial on using epub converter. I’ve been looking for ways to read technical papers and reference books on my iPhone.
    I have drag the epub version of a book into iTunes and I can see it in the library. How do I transfer it, into my iPhone-Stanza apps then? I downloaded Stanza desktop, enable sharing and go to the iPhone Stanza apps and GetBooks-> Shared-> use my Mac iP address with port 8080.
    It says it can not found it.
    Is there another way to do this or am I missing something?

      9 years ago

      For an app like Stanza on the iPhone, just follow their instructions. If it isn’t working, then connect their support. I’m not a Stanza user, so I can’t be of any help.
      For iBooks, you would just add the book to your iTunes collection and then sync your iPhone. Make sure you have iBooks on your iPhone and make sure that you set books to sync.

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