How to Convert a PDF File to an EPUB File

This guide explains how to convert a PDF file to an EPUB file using completely free software that works in Windows, macOS and Linux.

This guide was initially called “How to convert PDF files to ePub files to read with iBooks” but Apple Books now supports PDF files natively, so this guide doesn’t include the iBooks part and now it just explains how to convert a PDF file to an .EPUB file.

Note: the screenshots in this guide are from a Mac, but if you’re using Windows or Linux you’ll have absolutely no trouble following along since the steps are identical and the app looks the same across all platforms.

  1. First things first, so you’ll need to download calibre. calibre (yes it starts with a lower-case “c”)is an eBook management app that lets you keep organize, edit and work with your eBook collection in all sorts of cool ways – one of which is converting eBooks from one format to another. It’s open source which means it’s free and safe to install since the code can be viewed by anyone. It’s not a very big download so it shouldn’t take too long.
  2. Run the file once the download completes. During the installation you’ll be asked which physical eBook Reader you use (eg. an Amazon Fire or Kindle) – it doesn’t matter what you select. You can choose Apple and then iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch if you have one. If not, select Generic and then Smartphone. Click Next once you’ve made your selection.
  3. the calibre installation wizard selecting an eReader device

  4. Depending on which device you selected in the previous step, you may be asked to enable a feature or install additional software. For the time being don’t bother, you can always enable the various features later.
  5. the calibre installation wizard iPhone Content server option

  6. Click Finish when the setup wizard is done.
  7. an arrow pointing at a Finish button

  8. calibre will automatically launch once the installation has completed.
  9. the main calibre interface before converting a pdf to an epub
    click to enlarge

  10. In order to convert the PDF you’ll need to add it to calibre. Click the Add books button.
  11. an arrow pointing to an Add books button

  12. Navigate to the PDF, select it and click Open
  13. selecting a File in a Finder window

  14. Before you convert it, confirm all of the metadata is correct and choose the cover you want to use by clicking selecting your book from the list and then click the Edit metadata button.
  15. an arrow pointing at an Edit metadata button

  16. Towards the bottom of the Edit metadata window there’s a button titled Download metadata – click it.
  17. the calibre edit metadata window with an arrow pointing at the download metadata button
    click to enlarge

  18. calibre will search through Google and Amazon to find all of the available publications of your book. Select the one you want to use and click OK
  19. calibre list of publication search results

  20. Now choose the cover photo you want to use for your eBook and click OK
  21. selecting a cover photo to use to convert a pdf to an epub

  22. Confirm everything is correct and make any changes you see fit. When you’re done, click the OK button.
  23. an arrow pointing to an OK button

  24. Finally! Select your eBook from the list and this time click the Convert books button and choose Convert individually from the menu.
  25. an arrow pointing at a Convert button and then Convert individually menu item

  26. Click the menu next to Output format: found in the upper-right corner of the Convert window. It will probably say MOBI by default.
  27. an arrow pointing to a menu named MOBI
    click to enlarge

  28. Choose EPUB from the list of eBook formats.
  29. selecting EPUB from a list of eBook formats to convert from PDF

  30. Click the OK button and let calibre do its thing. The conversion itself shouldn’t take more than a few moments.
  31. an arrow pointing to an OK button for calibre to start to convert a pdf to an epub file

  32. Once the process has completed you’ll be taken back to the main calibre window. Select your eBook from the list and take a look at the Formats field in the summary panel – you’ll see EPUB in addition to PDF. Click the Click to open link next to Path:
  33. an arrow pointing to a link titled Click to open

  34. This will open a Finder window (or File Explorer if you’re using Windows, or your default file manager in Linux) where you’ll find your newly created .epub file.
  35. a Finder window with an arrow pointing to a epub file after the pdf convert

  36. That’s it! You now have an EPUB copy of your eBook.

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21 thoughts on “How to Convert a PDF File to an EPUB File”

  1. Even though iBooks now supports pdf, it doesn’t match the reading experience of an epub on iPad.

    Excellent reference. Thanks a million.

  2. Wow, this program rocks. it works like a charm. i have converted a lot of PDF documents into epub, and they are read great on my iPad 2. Thanks for sharing such a great tip. Nice work.

  3. thank you. This worked perfectly to get my microsoft word converted to PDF document on my ipad 2.

  4. Fantastic! Thanks for the guide. Really helpful! I really love the way how it converted the PDF document I downloaded from the web with almost total fidelity. The ability to synchronise to my iPhone through iTunes is totally perfect. Everything including the book cover converted and synchronised without a single problem.

    I really love my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. They’re really fantastic at what they do. The main advantage as I see it of converting a PDF document into ePUB format is the ability to adjust font sizes in iBooks on the fly. This plus the easily readability of the book is a total win for Calibre.

  5. Thanks for the guide! It was very helpful, while I don’t mind the pdf’s, it drives me nuts that there are, more often than not, no book covers, and it takes forever to find the book I want. There are also features in iBooks that can not be used on the pdf’s. All in all, worth the few minutes it takes to convert.

    I do have a question though, once the file is converted, it creates many sub files such as the cover.jpg etc. Can I delete those now?

  6. Ross,

    Thank you so much for your help! This opens up a whole new area of sales for my .pdf products!

    Pete

  7. This is the best, straight forward How-To I’ve read on this process!!!! Thank you so much!!!

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