How to (cleanly) convert PDF files to eBook files

For anyone’s who’s gotten an ARC in PDF format (looking at you NetGalley) and tried to read it on an e-Reader, you’ll know how frustrating the experience can be. The font isn’t adjustable so you’re stuck reading size 4 text, alignment can get screwed up, etc etc. Overall, not a great experience. For any Calibre users out there who’s tried a direct conversion from PDF to .mobi or .epub, the conversion isn’t much better. The line spacing and text alignment are all wonky, words get cut off in strange places, etc.

While I’m aware that there are plenty of online services that offer PDF to eBook conversion, there’s a small concern in the back of my head about uploading files (especially unpublished ARCS) to the Internet and not knowing where that file may end up.

Through trial and error and many a frustration, I’ve figured out a way to successfully convert PDFs to eBook files that leave the text (mostly) readable. This method isn’t perfect, but I’ve found it works for about 90% of the PDFs I’ve received and hopefully it’ll help some other bloggers out too.

For this guide, I’ll be converting a copy of Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells, which I received as a .pdf  from NetGalley without an option to send to my Kindle. If there are any issues, please let me know and I’ll take down the post and replace the images with something in the public domain.

What you’ll need:

  • Calibre (a eBook management/databasing software and one of my person favorites, also completely FREE!)
  • MS Word (or a free equivalent: OpenOffice, LibreOffice, etc)
    • I’ve only ever done this with Word, so if someone uses another program, let me know the results!
  • the .pdf file


  1. Open the PDF in Word.  A box will pop up that looks like this: Say yes and wait for the file to convert. This might take a couple minutes
  2. Once the file is done converting, give it a cursory look over to make sure the formatting doesn’t look terrible. If there’s anything noticeable, the beauty of this method is that you can fix it! It won’t be perfect, but make sure it’s readable for you.
  3. Save the file as a .docx
  4. Open Calibre and import the .docx (main page -> Add Books – top left corner)
    • Alternatively, if you’ve already imported the PDF version, right-click the title -> Edit Metadata -> Click the icon with the Red Book and plus sign on the top right -> choose file -> OK -> OK to close the Edit Metadata pop-up
    • Word will need to be closed before you import
  5. Right-click the title -> Convert Books -> Convert Individually
  6. Set “Input Format” (Top Left) to DOCX, set “Output Format” (Top Right) to MOBI/EPUB and press okay
  7. Wait for the Calibre to convert your file (might take a couple minutes) and done!

Congratulations on a (mostly) readable eBook file! You can now upload that file to almost any eReading device, or just read it through Calibre.

Where this won’t work:

  • Verse novels/Poetry Collections – the .pdf -> .docx conversion kills the formatting of the poems
  • Books with lots of pictures – images are tricky to handle and they won’t always end up in the right places. This could be manually adjusted, but if the book is big, it’ll probably take a while
  • Graphic Novels – yeah no

While this method isn’t perfect, it’s a much more readable alternative to doing a direct conversion with Calibre. I hope this helps, and if anyone comes up with improvements/alternatives, please let me know in the comments!

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