How to Convert your ePub to a Kindle Format

  • SumoMe

One of the most common questions I get asked when people start making ebooks is “Do I really need to create two separate files? One for Kindle and another for everyone else?” And then they usually ask if it takes twice as long 🙂

This isn’t a silly question. Anyone that looks at the files that publishers provide to readers can see there are two different file formats: .epub and .mobi. But just what is the difference, and why do we need both?

The .mobi format

The .mobi format is specific ebook formate for Kindle devices. There’s a long history of both technological and corporate reasons for it to be the main file format or Kindle readers, but suffice to say you’ll need to make a .mobi file at some point if you want to submit the file to the Amazon’s Kindle store.

Today, the .mobi format is really just a proprietary file type not that different from an ePub. And the good news is that you no longer need to create this file from scratch. Kindle has created a suite of tools to convert other file formats to the .mobi format. And since you’ve obviously created an ePub—the best ebook format around—we’ll look at how to convert a .epub file to a .mobi file

The Three Best Ways to Convert an ePub to a .mobi File

There are lots of ways to convert an ePub to .mobi, but I’m going to talk about the three best ways to do it. All three use Amazon’s tools, so you can be assured that they are how Amazon wants you to convert them. We’ll start with the easiest way that anyone can use, and move to ways that more professional and technically-minded ebook creators can use.

The KDP uploader

Arguably the easiest method to use is Amazon’s KDP system. If you just want to create a .mobi file as quickly as possible this is the easiest way. It’s a two-click process (assuming you already have a KDP account), and once the epub is uploaded you are ready to sell your book.

  1. Create a KDP account (if you just want to follow along, you can create a free account to bypass the bank info)
  2. Click “Add a New Title” (upper lefthand corner of the main KDP screen)
  3. (If you want to submit this book to Amazon, fill out #1-4, but I’m going to skip them)
  4. Scroll down to #5: Upload Your Book File
  5. Click “Browse” and select your book
  6. Once the file has finished converting, #6: Preview Your Book will appear
  7. In the bottom box labeled “Downloadable Previewer”

The Kindle Previewer

The KDP upload process is great, but it has one fatal flaw for people that want to create a professional looking ebook: its preview process to ensure the ebook looks great isn’t great, and if you do find issues, you’ll be doing a lot to uploading and downloading of files.

Amazon’s answer to this problem is the Kindle Previewer. It’s an app you can download to a computer to preview what your .mobi file will look like on various Kindle devices, and if you jump back to step #7 above you’ll see Amazon recommends you use it to preview your files. But it also has the added benefit of converting your ebook to .mobi, allowing you to skip the KDP Upload process.

  1. Download the Kindle Previewer app here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000765261
  2. Open the App
  3. Drag your ePub file onto the Kindle Previewer window
  4. This will create a folder of generated files in the same location as the ePub file
  5. Inside that folder (once the process is complete) will be your .mobi file

 

kindlegen

Lastly I’m going to talk about kindlegen. If you’re not a technical person, you can probably just skip this section 🙂 But if you like/prefer the command line, or are looking for ways to automate a .mobi creation process, please continue along.

The process behind generating .mobi file from ePubs in both the KDP upload and the Kindle previewer is a tool called kindlegen. Amazon offers to tool in a java format to allow developers to use it themselves if they so desire. When you run kindlegen form the command line you’ll also get an output of warnings, errors, and other helpful information about the .mobi file creation.

  1. Download the kindlegen application here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000765211
  2. Once downloaded, open up Terminal (assuming you’re a Mac user)
  3. move into the unzipped folder: cd path/to/kindlegen
  4. run kindlegen on file: kindlegen path/to/epub/file
  5. kindlegen will create a .mobi file in the same location as the ePub file.

Other convertors

As I mentioned, there are other convertors out there. You could use Calibre, or an online file convertor, or something else you found on the internet—but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you know exactly how they operate. It’s possible that some of them will alter your ePub file before converting it to .mobi, or they use an outdate version of kindlegen and don’t tell you about it. Both of these could lead to a very painful QA process.

41 Responses to “How to Convert your ePub to a Kindle Format”

  1. I don’t bother with these conversion processes. Amazon accepts epub, so that’s what they get. Just make sure the images are under 127K.

    https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2GF0UFHIYG9VQ

    If Amazon wants to be non-standard, they can deal with the issues not me. Particularly irritating are:

    1. Leaving kindlegn command driven. I couldn’t be that hard to create an OS X app for it.

    2. Still no InDesign CC plug-in.

    Amazon also has a more powerful format called KF8

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000729511

    It’s only for the Kindle Fire and more recent elink readers though. Amazon isn’t that into backward compatibility. No money there.

    • Derrick Schultz says:

      Michael,

      You don’t need to use kindlegen in the command line if you don’t want to. As I mention in the Kindle Previewer section, it serves the dual purpose of being both a Previewer and a kindlegen GUI.

      And you’re right, most people don’t need to worry about creating .mobi files. But if you‘re creating files for a client to QA, or if you want to offer a .mobi file to customers on a self-standing e-commerce site, these tips will help you get there.

    • Rob Siders says:

      “[KF8 is] only for the Kindle Fire and more recent elink readers though. Amazon isn’t that into backward compatibility.”

      Actually, both statements are incorrect. All Kindle apps, and all Kindle devices from Kindle 3 forward, excluding Kindle DX, support KF8. What’s more is that the KF8 spec allows for alternate style sheets to accommodate the DX and Kindle 1 and 2.

      • Frank says:

        That’s not exactly true. I am working on a book without a lot of visuals. KF8 with fixed layout will open on earlier Kindles. The first time you look through them they even look fine. After that though things start to go awry and images start to ‘disappear’ off screen etc. Earlier Kindle’s do not support KF8 yet and Amazon states this explicitly.

  2. Paul says:

    I have an epub file created in ID containing several tables originally created in MS Word. These show up reasonably well in ADE (truncated vertically but not horizontally) but are an absolute disaster in mobi (all Kindle versions) regardless of the conversion method used. Any ideas?

    • Derrick Schultz says:

      Paul,
      Your best bet is to convert it to a list. Some devices seem to be fine with tables, others mangle them.

  3. Jackie says:

    I actually recently found a site called http://www.sendepubtokindle.com/ that makes this super easy.

    It lets you send ePub files directly to your Kindle (I guess it converts the ePub to mobi automatically). It only takes a few clicks, and you don’t have to download or install anything on your computer. Now I only save ePub files on my computer, and if I want to read one on my Kindle, then I can just use sendepubtokindle.com to send it over.

    Hope that’s helpful to some of you out there!

    • Frank says:

      Thanks Jackie! The http://www.sendepubtokindle.com/ link you recommended is amazing! It’s by far the easiest and quickest way to convert epub’s to Kindle azw files. I explored all the other options and this is by far the simplest and fastest. Folks, this is the REAL DEAL! Use it. If 10 stars is the best, I’d give this 11 stars.

    • Grace says:

      Jackie,
      This website is great and I just uploaded an .ePub file, but I was wondering how long on average it takes for the converted file to be sent and for me to receive a notification e-mail?

      • Ian says:

        I am wondering the same. Been waiting about 30 min now.

      • Con says:

        This site is no longer working for me. Anyone else?

      • Ian says:

        Nope. Never worked for me and I started getting spam.

      • Molly says:

        I’ve been using this site for a while now and it works for me great. Sometimes I get the books on my Kindle immediately, but sometimes it can take a few hours. The same thing happens if I send a book to my Send to Kindle email address myself, so I reckon it could be an Amazon problem, and not a problem with the site. I’m a huge fan and still use it all the time 🙂

      • Gav says:

        This is awesome. I just gave these people who obviously use shills on blogs the password to my private device and access to my amazon account! This goes way beyond stars – 10 nebulae!

    • padma says:

      thankyou

  4. Matt says:

    We use Calibre to convert our EPUB to MOBI. It seems to make a better job of keeping tables intact than KindleGen.

    I didn’t try Kindle Previewer, as it needs X11 installing on my Mac.

    • Derrick Schultz says:

      Matt,

      Calibre uses KindleGen to create .mobi files. It’s very possible that Calibre is changing the EPUB file prior to using KindleGen to make tables work better on Kindles, but it’s still using KindleGen under the hood.

  5. Alice says:

    Oops, typo, ‘assuming your a Mac user’ should be ‘assuming you’re a Mac user’.

  6. Fanny says:

    Hello,

    I am trying to look at my fixed layout EPUB (exported from InDesign CC) on the Kindle Previewer but it doesn’t allow me to select any text – does that mean that the text is not live/searchable? Does Kindle Fire allow slideshows? Thank you for letting me know!

    • Derrick Schultz says:

      Hi Fanny,

      InDesign’s export to FXL does have some problems with Kindles. I’d be wary of expecting it to work as you want.

      With that said, I don’t think you can select text in Kindle Previewer regardless of the file type.

  7. Katy says:

    Here’s another good way to convert epub to mobi formats when needed. http://kitpdf.com/epub_to_mobi/ lets users to simply upload their files and converted without any installation. This free toolkit provides more conversion options, have a look and try it!

  8. Aixa says:

    I convert my InDesign CC Book from EPUB3 with Kindle Priviewer and when I check the book in my Kindle Fire device all the text is in a different font style that I used and it’s impossible to change to any other style. What am I doing wrong?

  9. Brittany says:

    What if your ePub books have a drm?

  10. Hello, I was searching for helping to publish an e-book on amazon kdp, It is an interesting articles for students like me.

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  13. Dena Jo says:

    When uploading using KDP uploader, what file formats can you upload? Can you upload a Word doc, or do you have to convert that to some interim format?

    • Kevin Callahan says:

      DEna, here’s a page from KDP listing all the available formats: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2GF0UFHIYG9VQ

      You can upload a Word doc, but results could be iffy depending on the complexity of your document. You have a better chance of getting what you’re looking for by uploading a final EPUB or, better, MOBI.

      • Dena Jo says:

        So can I correctly assume that if I upload in MOBI, that what I see on my computer monitor is what I’ll get on my Kindle?

      • Kevin Callahan says:

        Dena, I’m sorry it’s taken a few days to respond. Kindle Previewer does a good job presenting how your book should work and look, but it doesn’t replace an actual viewing on a device. Without knowing what design elements your book includes, it’s hard to say which features will display well on the various devices. If you can’t get your hands on at least a Fire and an eInk (Paperwhite, Voyage, Kindle), then see if friends or colleagues have them. One client shared her files with her writing group; she found that among them many devices/varieties of devices were represented.

  14. tara says:

    HI, I bought a new kindle fire (2nd gen) and I was trying to transfer my files from my old kindle ( black and white) but it’s not showing in my new kindle. I watched youtube and it says there to put it in DOCUMENTS but still the same. I even tried putting it in the BOOKS folder same issue. can you please help me what to do? You can also send me email. Thank you so much!!!!

    • Kevin Callahan says:

      Hi Tara, I’m a maker of MOBIs, but not particularly adept at navigating the retail spaces, so not sure I have a lot of info for you.

      Are these purchased from Amazon? Perhaps you can re-download from the Kindle store; you might have to do some device management within your Amazon account.

      I looked around online, and found this article: http://www.epubor.com/kindle-ebooks-to-kindle.html

      Read down in the article, and you’ll see how to manage your Kindle devices. Good luck!

  15. It’s in point of fact a nice and helpful piece of information. I am happy
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  16. Why go through all this (which really really hard and did not work) when this website converts your epub to mobi in under a minute and for free.
    I donated it was that fast and easy.
    https://www.epub2mobi.com/result?id=5WPFYLAD

  17. […] We also have a roundup on creating .mobi file from EPUB file. […]

  18. Louise says:

    Thanks! You’ve made it super clear how to convert my epub to get it up on Amazon without having lots of formatting errors – all the other sites kept telling me to just upload the epub on kdp, but I figured there had to be a better way.

  19. Maria says:

    Thanks, this article is very helpful!

  20. Theresa says:

    I get the error message “Kindle Previewer has failed to compile the book”

    Help?

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