How to Convert a PDF to MOBI (Kindle) or EPUB for e-Publishing

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Using a PDF is NOT the recommended method for authors when publishing their work. Converting from a PDF to Kindle or EPUB pulls in a lot of strange coding that can wreak havoc on your final output; however, this method is adequate for reading, though it isn’t without it’s problems as well.

Yet, if the only version of your book is in PDF form and you want to move it to your e-reader, there are various ways you can do this. Just understand that you should proofread and test the results on your Kindle BEFORE publishing.

NOTE: for the sake of the examples, I will reference the Kindle.


Option 1: Direct Download

A PDF file can be placed directly on your Kindle for reading; however the results are mixed. Depending upon the formatting of the original PDF file, you may find the results less than adequate for reading. Commonly, the text is overly light and small.


  • Plug in your Kindle to your computer.
  • Open the Kindle image and open the folder ‘documents’
  • Place the PDF file in the ‘documents’ folder

Option 2: Calibre Conversion

Many Kindle users convert the PDF to a MOBI or .azw format using the free program Calibre. The process is fairly simple and the results adequate. It will, at least, get the file onto your e-reader in a format for reading. However, be aware the formatting will be less than perfect but it will be fine for reading purposes.

WARNING: This is NOT the recommended way for e-publishing. A PDF includes coding that cause formatting issues when converted directly to MOBI. It is best to convert your word doc to HTM and then into MOBI for e-publishing purposes.


  1. Open Calibre and then upload the PDF file to the Calibre Library
  2. Click “Add Books” and in the drop down select “Add books from a single directory”.
  3. Find the book on your computer and click “Open”
  4. The file will show at the top of your book list.
  5. Select the book and choose “Convert Books”.
  6. Choose “Convert Individually” from the drop down.
  7. In the right corner choose MOBI, and click “OK” at the bottom.

Take note of the Author name, so that you can find the file in your Calibre Library folder on your computer. If you lose the location, do a search on your computer for either .mobi or the name of you file (ie/


Option 3: Copy and Paste

If you are able to select the entire document and copy the text then you can paste it into your word processing program for conversion.

This will only work if the file is not password protected. Of course you will need to reformat the layout (flow of text, headers, subheads) and re-insert any graphics.


  1. Open the file in Acrobat Reader
  2. Place the curser on the page and select all (Cmd+A; Ctrl+A)
  3. Copy the selection (Cmd+C; Ctrl+C)
  4. Open a new word processing page
  5. Place your curser on the page and paste the copy (Cmd+V; Ctrl+V)

Option 4: Retype

If you are proficient in typing, you can reset the entire document. If you aren’t proficient, you consider hiring a high school or college student – they are always looking for ways to make money.

Option 5: OCR

Another way, and much easier than typing, is to digitally scan each page using OCR — optical character recognition.

This is not without its issues as well. If the text is light on the PDF, or a little ‘muddy’, the OCR may not accurately convert the image to text. Careful proofing is a must.

TIP: There are two online OCR solutions referenced at the end of this document. I have not tried them, so their accuracy is not validated.

You may also need to save each page separately in order to use the online service.

Another way, is to print each page and then use OCR software to scan back the pages for digital transcription.

Option 6: Transcribe

This would require you to read aloud (record) the document, and then have a transcription service type and send back the document. Transcription services could be costly, depending upon their charge per page, charge per minute and the size of your document but if time is an issue, this is a good solution. Just make sure you speak clearly.



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  1. says

    Hereis a bit more info – You can convert pdf’s when sending them by email to your Kindle. It will make it so you can using the sizing feature. This note is on the ‘manage your Kindle’ section of Amazon:

    “To have your PDF documents converted to Kindle format so you can take advantage of functionality such as variable font size, annotation, Text-to-Speech, etc., type “Convert” in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to “name” Image-heavy PDF files are presented in landscape orientation and don’t work with devices that have auto-rotation, so those will be delivered in the Kindle format.”

    Note, there is a fee for files over a certain size. You can read the entire instructions here –

    Thanks for the tips. Great website.


    • says

      Jenna, Thanks for contributing the information. I have never used the email to PDF, but I know that many have. Thanks for including that information for our readers — Suzanne