Anyone who has tried to read a PDF on a tiny smartphone screen has probably wondered if there was a way to convert the PDF to an eReader format. Such a format—ePub and Mobi are the most popular—presents information as “flowable text”, that is, the information is one continuous page rather than discrete pages like you see in a book or a PDF. This is an important problem to solve given the wide-spread adoption of the PDF format and the wide variety of screen sizes one may want to read on.
For this exercise I selected two file converters and used them to convert two different PDF files to an eBook format (ePub and Mobi had nearly identical results). One PDF was a highly illustrated PDF eBook from Hubspot.com. The second was a mostly text book of sermons by Mark Feldmeir. I compared the same sections of each book. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for my assessment.
2epub.com's free online conversion tool is a great resource depending on your needs and the type of document you need converted. It can ingest doc, docx, epub, fb2, html, lit, lrf, mobi, odt, pdb, pdf, prc, rtf and txt files and output epub, fb2, lit, lrf and mobi (the Kindle format). It is very easy to use and does not require registration.
Calibre is similar in both what it can ingest and output except you get more controls and it installs on your local hard drive. That can be good or bad depending on your needs.
This is one page from the original Hubspot PDF.
This is the same Hubspot page but converted to ePub/mobi* using 2epub.com
This is that same Hubspot page converted to ePub/mobi* file but using Calibre
This is one page from the PDF of Testimony for the Exiles
This is the same “Testimony” file converted to ePub/mobi* file using 2epub.com
This is the same “Testimony” file converted to ePub/mobi* file using Calibre
* both ePub and mobi were nearly identical so only one result is shown here.
A Few Observations
1. Image–heavy files do not convert well. Consider deleting the images before converting or contact a professional conversion services firm.
2. Text files on the other hand looked pretty good. Both programs did a better job here but you still need to watch for extra lines being inserted and other odd problems.
3. Quite a bit of text from the image files converted into capital letters. Look at the titles of the original PDFs.
4. I thought 2epub.com output looked better than Calibre's. At least there were spaces between paragraphs which made the document easier to read.
5. The Calibre converter allows you to modify the metadata (like title and author name) which can be important.
While either program does an adequate job creating files for personal use neither program was capable of producing the kind of ePub or Mobi eBook that should be sold to the public. There were just too many formatting inconsistencies. In that case convert the PDF to Word (or similar), format, and convert that file to ePub and or Mobi.