15 Replies Latest reply on Sep 17, 2014 12:38 AM by kaysteve

    Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign

    JohnScottLamb Level 1

      I have four finished books in PDF files, totaling 1857 pages including over 600 photographs, which I need to convert to EPUB files in InDesign.  I used a script to import all of the pages of one book into InDesign into a document reflecting the page and margin parameters of the original Microsoft Word document file.  The imported PDF looked perfect in InDesign once I switched to a high-quality display performance in the View menu.  However, when I exported the document into an EPUB file, I ran into two problems that I cannot fix. 


      Problem #1:  Both the Digital Editions EPUB reader and the Nook recognize the EPUB document as having only two pages (displaying 1 / 2 on the screen, even though I can scroll to or page to all 430 pages in both Digital Editions and the Nook.  This happens despite the fact that the correct number of pages correctly displays in the InDesign document settings.


      Problem #2:  The document text in the EPUB file is so poorly rendered it is almost illegible.  Each letter is chunky and fragmented and partially pixelated.  However, the same text in InDesign perfectly reflects the high quality fonts used in the original PDF and Microsoft Word Documents.


      I can find no documentation in the InDesign help system to explain why I am getting these results.  When I cut and paste a few pages of text from the PDF into an InDesign layout, it looks fantastic when I export it to an EPUB. But the text in the script loaded PDF pages look horrible.  And for what it is worth, Problems #1 and #2 persisted, even when bypassed the script and I hand placed a half dozen pages from the PDF into an InDesign document and exported them to an EPUB file. 


      Also, if I export back to a PDF from InDesign, the text looks perfect and the page numbering is correct in Digital Editions.  The only reference I found related to InDesign text quality on export  is in Object Export Options, but they remain disabled to me.


      And as a final test, I script loaded all 710 pages of the indesign_cs5_help.pdf to see if it would display the same problems. Not surprisingly, the text was just as poorly rendered in Digital Editions, which then displayed the first page of the document as 1 / 3 instead of 1 / 710.


      Is there some method I can use to fix these problems?  Or am I going to have to recreate the layout for all 1857 pages painstakingly object by object in InDesign?


      Thanks for all assistance.

        • 1. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
          Steve Werner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          First, It's always helpful if you tell us what version of InDesign, and what platform you're running. With new technologies like EPUB export, there has  been much progress from version to version.


          The InDesign Help system covers only the basics of the export dialog. It doesn't tell you the details of this very different workflow which requires quite an education.


          Apparently, you imported PDFs of each Microsoft Word page into InDesign. InDesign will accurately preview each page, and will pass on the text accurately when you make a new PDF file. However, EPUB export is a much different animal. A placed PDF file is considered a graphic, and it will be rasterized upon export (you'd have the same thing happen if you placed an Illustrator file). The image resolution is set either in Images section of the Export EPUB dialog box or alternatively  (if you have InDesign CS5.5) it can be customized in Object > Object Export Options. If you are using InDesign CS5 or earlier the image resolution default is 72 ppi. If you are using InDesign CS5.5 or higher, you can set it as high as 300 ppi.


          The result is that your text is probably displayed as 72 ppi, explaining your results.


          You're taking a totally different approach than 99.9% of EPUB creators. There the expectation is that the text will reflow from page to page, and will be able to be resized  in the EPUB reader. Your pages would be fixed size which will look lousy on most EPUB readers.


          For you to understand more about EPUB, I highly recommend a couple of sources. The eBooks of Elizabeth Castro are highly recommend. In particular, "EPUB Straight to the Point" would be good, because it describes both a Microsoft Word to EPUB and an InDesign to EPUB workflow. Here is here website link: Formatting ebooks - EPUB Straight to the Point


          I don't usually recommend this but it might actually be better to export directly from Word.


          If you choose an InDesign route, I also recommend Anne-Marie Concepcion's videos on Lynda.com.

          • 2. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
            BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

            As always, Steve is dead on.




            Here’s a link that will get you a free one week trial on Lynda. http://bit.ly/fcGpiI




            That said, if the document is simple enough and all you have is a PDF you can try converting it using Calibre. I warn you however, that if you have no knowledge of HTML and CSS you are going to be in for a world of pain and should probably hire someone for a job this size unless you have an unlimited amount of time to do this.





            • 3. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
              JohnScottLamb Level 1

              I am using InDesign CS5.5 version 7.5.2.


              Your answer is what I feared since I could not get at the objects within the PDF frame individually.


              Following the conventions used for published books for the past 200 years, a PDF perfectly displays a book with fixed pages and page numbers with footnotes where they belong at the bottom of each page on a Nook, Kindle Fire or IPad.  This allows other authors to cite quoted passages appropriately, as they would in any paper book, by including the referenced page number within the constrictions of copyright law.  When the page number of a passage changes based on the height and width of the electronic device, there is no way to cite reproduced passages in the manner proscribed by convention and law.  Now if this is the way our culture chooses, then so be it.  But I fear software architects are making such decisions without considering the larger cultural issues they are affecting. 


              I hoped that exporting the PDF to the EPUB, as fixed non-flow-able pages would reproduce the standard paper book conventions familiar to book readers.  In truth, the digital publishing community seems split between Amazon doing it their way and everyone else standardizing on the EPUB format.  Since paper books will never be able to duplicate the dynamic flowing formats of digital book solutions, it should be in the interest of the industry to conform to conventional paper publishing standards instead of warring over which new ideas provide a better way.  Having worked for thirty years on a half dozen different computer/digital systems, I know how quickly all the work created on an obsolete computer system can be lost forever.  But books printed hundreds of years ago can still be read today.  The "new" digital book formats of today will be replaced by "better' formats every four or five years ad infinitum into the future, if only because change equates to new sales.  But considering how we are probably only a decade away from the day when paper books become an anachronism, it should be in all our interest to try not to be hasty when it comes to changing conventions.



              I apologize for getting into an epistemological discussion; but if we who create the technology of the future do not think about such things when we choose our methodologies, then no one else will either. In Design is an impressive software package.  So even if it will take a long time to use it to lay out so many pages, it will still produce the results I am after.

              • 4. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                JohnScottLamb Level 1

                Thanks for the link; I will check it out.


                I tried Calibri several months ago, and I was unimpressed by the way it ignored common word processor attributes like paragraph indents, italics, footnoting, etc.  Having worked for ten years as a senior architect designing database driven dynamic  browser-based software applications similar to those later produced successfully by Siebel Systems (now defunct), I an not interested in buggy software.  This is why I chose the Adobe solution.

                • 5. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                  Steve Werner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  If you go to the Elizabeth Castro website I referenced earlier, you'll also see listed an eBook about Fixed Layout EPUB. This would work better for what you're trying to do. Check it out.


                  Fixed Layout EPUB is very early in development and hasn't yet become a standard. It currently only works in Apple iBooks (I believe, could be wrong). If you go to the Lynda.com website, Anne-Marie Concepcion has done a title on creating Fixed Layout EPUB from InDesign.

                  • 6. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                    [Jongware] Most Valuable Participant

                    Two-sided printing was once an innovation too :-)


                    I agree that the *current* state of e-pub publishing is not up to printing specs by far. My eyes hurt when I see the latest version of iBook STILL cannot keep a heading with its next paragraph, let alone control widows and orphans, ligatures, forced-justified text inside tables, and hyphenation errors -- who would have thought a 21st century hyphenation algorithm would produce "ye-ars"!?


                    On the other hand, that is what it is now and these are the cards you are given. If your client still asks for an e-pub, they'll have to put up with what can be done now or wait another couple of years for the standards to stabilize, and hopefully improve.

                    • 7. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                      JohnScottLamb Level 1

                      I have been reading Castro's book From InDesign CS 5.5 to EPUB and Kindle.  She recommends building a book in InDesign as a reliable way to force a new page where needed, such as on a title page, copyright page, and for each chapter.  This works great with one exception. 



                      In documents, the Same As Articles Panel option in the EPUB export dialog activates whenever an article entry is present in the article list.  This list ensures that the rendering order of objects on a page is correct.

                      However, when I build a Book comprised of document pages with the articles ordered, the Same As Articles Panel option in the export panel is not enabled. 



                      Presumably, a Book uses all of the articles entered in each included document.  Is there some trick to enabling the

                      Same As Articles Panel option when exporting an EPUB from a book?

                      • 8. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                        Steve Werner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                        While I've used the Articles panel successfully, with CS 5.5, I haven't used it with the Book panel.


                        With other Book-related actions (e.g., choosing a TOC Style), the feature has to be in the chapter selected as the Style Source in the Book panel. Does that particular chapter make use of the Articles panel?

                        • 9. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                          JohnScottLamb Level 1

                          Thanks. While all the documents had articles, I made a different one the style source and it worked as you suggested. I then deleted and restored the articles in the orginal style source, and it too is now working as expected.

                          • 10. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign

                            I too am trying to convert existing books to epub for Kindle and the other platforms.


                            If I use MS Word via the Kindle converter or via Calibri the text is perfect, but the all-important image quality is terrible.


                            If I use Adobe PDF via Calibri to Kindle, the image quality is just fine, but the text does not flow and the formatting is terrible.


                            If I use Adobe Indesign CS5 I can get high quality text and images, but it's a lot of work (for me, anyway). Is this the only way to go or is there some way I can convert MSWord and keep high (300 ppi) uncompressed images?


                            Any advice would be much appreciated.

                            • 11. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                              BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                              Without seeing your files it’s impossible to answer your question.




                              All I can tell you is that creating EPUBs from already existing files is going to be a lot of work and if you don’t have a full understanding of HTML and CSS you’re going to be in for a world of pain.





                              • 12. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                                JohnScottLamb Level 1

                                I have managed to work out the entire process over the past three weeks both working with InDesign with EPUB and by helping a friend post a series of books directly from Microsoft Word via MOBI to Amazon.  I will discuss the latter process first to point out the inherent problems with the direct approach, so the reasons for using InDesign become more apparent.



                                From Microsoft Word

                                First, I recommend you reformat your Word document into a smaller book size to simulate the maximum text display you will get on a Kindle (3.0 in. x 5.3 in. margins) or Nook (3.3 in. X 5.5 in. margins).  Next, make sure you are using style tags and paragraph and page layout options everywhere (no tabs or spaces in formatting), and a TOC object for the table of contents.  All photos or images must be centered, and if you want them to have horizontal width, then stretch them from side to side.  Leave your cover photo out of the document, and add it via the author panel specifying you want the uploaded cover image to be used inside the book.  This will assure that the cover photo will correctly fill the frame.


                                Next save your DOCX document as a FILTERED HTML.  Then close Word and load the HTML into the Kindle Previewer to review to verify your images are correctly displayed.  When you do this, it creates a MOBI file that you can upload to a Kindle to view first hand.  Then when you are satisfied with the results, you can upload this MOBI book file to Amazon Authors Direct.  The upload dialog does not say it will accept a MOBI file, but the HTML file it recommends does not contain any image data.  As it accepts an EPUB file, it only made sense it would accept the MOBI file, and it does (even the Amazon technical staff did not know this).


                                Using InDesign

                                The results of going from Word direct to MOBI are far from perfect.  But I would judge they are minimally acceptable.  However, if you want complete control of a book’s layout I recommend going the InDesign route.  Without exception, the pages, text and images laid out in InDesign are (or will be soon) perfectly reflected on the Nook and Kindle.  Granted, it takes time to lay out a book page by page, but if you do it right by using the InDesign paragraph and object styles, the process goes quickly. 


                                1. Create an InDesign Book with each chapter a separate document in the book to ensure chapters start on a new page.
                                2. Make document pages small to maintain the look and feel.  They need not be 3.5 x 5.5.  I used a 5 x 7 inch document page and everything looked fine on the Kindle and Nook.  Get used to the idea that the text will always flow differently based on the text size selected, So only worry about inline image placement, chapter headings and such, and leave the rest to fate.
                                3. After you get one chapter finished, use it to create a template document to use for subsequent chapter documents to facilitate laying out your book.  A photo in a graphic frame with an anchored caption text box is easily copied and pasted elsewhere to standardize all image objects.  Be sure to synchronize styles and swatches for each new chapter added.
                                4. InDesign footnoting did not work correctly in the EPUB for me, but I found it easy to use the hyperlink system to emulate footnoting functionality.  By placing the footnotes at the back of the book and implementing a hyperlink back to the inclusion point of the footnote in a chapter, the reader can use the footnote pages like a hot index as well as a hot footnote.
                                5. When generating an EPUB,
                                  1. Select No cover image
                                  2. Select ordering same as Article panel
                                  3. Set Book margin to 0
                                  4. Image size relative to page
                                  5. Contents XHTML
                                  6. Use InDesign TOC (set style used)
                                  7. Generate CSS with all boxes checked.



                                One thing to be aware of is that the digital readers will read the HTML page objects left to right then top to bottom, so I recommend the following:


                                1. In InDesign Guides and Pasteboard preferences, set the Snap to Zone to 1 to guarantee all page objects line up on the left margin exactly.  Manually adjust each object box X location as necessary.  Lock object when completed to minimize inadvertent movement
                                2. Always guarantee all text box objects stretch from left to right margin.  Use the Indent controls to vary text placement and make this a new paragraph style.
                                3. Always anchor a photo (inset in a graphic frame) to a caption text box stretched margin-to-margin to ensure the photos will not sink to the bottom of a page in the EPUB. 
                                4. Photos snapped to each margin will display full width and will display larger when the Kindle is rotated 90 degrees.
                                5. Add 0.25 in, Space After on the last paragraph before an image and 0.25 in, Space Before on the first paragraph after an image to create a bit of white space around the image and caption.
                                6. Always use the Article list to verify the placement of page objects in each chapter document.  I have had a few images sink when the article list is generated despite all the above precautions.  But it is easy to manually make adjustments.


                                Kindle Tools

                                Amazon released a series of tools and PDF documents a few weeks ago that greatly simplify the process of posting a book for sale via Direct Publishing.  That said, rabbit holes abound waiting to catch anyone who is not already familiar with HTML and document layout software technologies.  So the non-tech masses should be wary.


                                The Amazon Tools are at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A3IWA2TQYMZ5J6 .


                                KindleGen v2.4 – a command line tool used to build eBooks that can be sold through Amazon's Kindle platform. This tool is best for publishers and individuals who are familiar with HTML and want to convert their HTML, XHTML, XML (OPF/IDPF format), or ePub source into a Kindle Book.


                                Kindle Previewer v2.4 -- a tool that emulates how books display on Kindle devices and applications. Kindle Previewer makes it easy to preview the layout of a book and make sure its text displays properly for any orientation or font size. This tool is recommended for publishers, eBook conversion companies, and individual authors in combination with KindleGen to produce the highest quality Kindle books. It is available for both Windows and Mac OS X platforms.


                                Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® v0.96 (Beta) --  a plug-in which can be used to convert documents or books created in Adobe InDesign® to Kindle format.  For more information on creating books for the Kindle platform from Adobe InDesign®, please see the Publishing Guidelines for Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign® available for download in PDF, Kindle and Adobe InDesign® formats.


                                I found that the Previewer and the DOS KindleGen produce identical MOBI files, so I recommend the previewer for its ease of use.  After extensive testing I have found the Kindle InDesign plugin will perfectly convert the text from InDesign; however, it fails to size, place and display photographs and captions in all cases.  It also does not render the InDesign TOC correctly.  But remember, it is Beta software .  I sent in a bug list to Amazon via the Export Book to Kindle dialog in InDesign and never got a response, but presumably someone is working on the problems and will eventually get them fixed.  On the other hand, currently the Previewer perfectly displays photographs in a MOBI file when the InDesign EPUB file is fed into it; and the only problem with the text is that the line spacing is incorrect so paragraph lines are somewhat scrunched together.  While this is not a problem for developing a book, I would wait until the final release of the Kindle Plugin for InDesign before generating and publishing a MOBI book.


                                I hope this helps.

                                1 person found this helpful
                                • 13. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                                  puangphet Level 1

                                  Dear John,


                                  My apologies for not replying sooner - somehow I missed your post.


                                  Your reply is very helpful indeed and I am most grateful to you for the time and effort you put into your reply.


                                  Many thanks - Puangphet

                                  • 14. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign

                                    I just have the same problem, I found this question. I tried Calibri several months ago, and I was unimpressed by the way it ignored common word processor attributes like paragraph indents, italics, footnoting, et, to convert PDF to ePub,there are many program can do it, like Vibosoft PDF to ePub, iStonsoft PDF to ePub converter and Coolmuter MOBi to ePub. Having worked for ten years as a senior architect designing database driven dynamic  browser-based software applications similar to those later produced successfully by Siebel Systems (now defunct), I an not interested in buggy software.  This is why I chose the Adobe solution.

                                    • 15. Re: Converting a PDF to an EPUB using InDesign
                                      kaysteve Level 1



                                      Reading PDF file is always been a troublesome situation. I suffered a lot because my office document are in PDF format and my device doesn’t support it. But thanks to my friend see told me to convert them into any other file format like ePub and thanks god I did that and now I can open it any device. PDF to ePub converter helped me to convert my PDF file to ePub file in just few simple steps.