Why ePUB format is better than PDF for iBooks

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You can buy or find free e-books in many formats. They might be almost identical, but some programs or devices can view them differently. This also goes for iBooks on iOS devices.

Whilst you can directly import and view e-books in PDF format to your iBooks, it is a lot better to use ePUB instead. When using PDFs, you will loose all the major features of iBooks which makes it great app for reading digital publications.

PDF viewing in iBooks does for example not support:

  • Dynamic page turning
  • Dictionary definition look-up
  • Word selecting and highlighting
  • Two-page layout for book-like appearance

We have made two screenshots of the very same ebook, once saved as PDF and the other in ePUB. It's the same book, but the difference in viewing both formats in iBooks is obvious.


PDF in iBooks for iPad

Alice in Wonderland ebook in PDF opened in iBooks iPad


ePub in iBooks

The same ebook in EPUB format opened in iBooks on iPad

The best thing you can do, is to convert your PDFs to ePUB and then import them to your library. This can be done also with any other ebook format, because iBooks has rather limited support for more exotic digital book types.

How to convert PDF to ePub with Calibre for Mac

Calibre is free cross-platform e-book management, viewing and converting tool. You can download it from developer's website. To install it simply copy calibre.app from *.dmg archive to Applications folder.

In Calibre click on Add Books button in the upper menu and select and import the book in PDF document format you wish to convert.

This will of course work for any other ebook format, like MOBI or similar.

Importing books to Calibre

Select the imported PDF book and click on the Convert books button in upper menu, or right-click on the book select Convert books → Convert individually option.

Conveting ebooks in Calibre

Set output format to EPUB and convert it with clicking on the OK button.

Calibre conversion settings

The new *.epub file will be stored in Calibre's default library. Now you can import it to the iTunes software (File → Add to Library, or drag and drop the file to iTunes).


Importing books to iTunes

And transfer your new *.epub to your device, or sync your library.

Ebooks in iTunes library

And that's it. No need to read ugly PDFs in your iBooks when you can read the same in awesome ePUB.


Related software and links:

Apple iTunes for Mac icon

Apple iTunes for Mac    Apple macOS / Mac OS X platform
Program used to organize and plays your digital music and video

Calibre for Mac icon

Calibre for Mac    Apple macOS / Mac OS X platform
A free open source ebook creator, converter and viewer

iBooks for iOS icon

iBooks for iOS    Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch devices) platform
E-book reader and manager for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch


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epub - Open Publication structure eBook

pdf - Adobe Portable document format

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