How to Convert Your Word Doc into a Mobi file Using Calibre

While a lot of folks can obviously easily upload their electronic manuscript files to Amazon, Smashwords, Createspace and the like, what happens when they want to send a copy to a friend so that person can read it on their Kindle? They have three options: Send it and have the friend pay the fee for converting a personal document, gift their friends a copy of the book from one of the websites, usually at the author’s cost, or send their friend a copy of the book in a format that’s already Kindle-compatible – i.e., a Mobi (short for Mobipocket) file. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how to do this. Here’s how to do it easily, quickly and for free.

Step 1: Download and install the free e-book management program Calibre. Calibre is one of the most versatile free programs out there when it comes to e-books, as I’ve noted before.
Step 2: Drag-and-drop a copy of the e-book you want to convert into the main Calibre screen, as shown below.

Please note that the e-book can be in any format except Microsoft Word’s doc and docx. For your best results, convert your book into a webpage (an html file). Most e-book formats are just versions of webpages, anyway. If you have a Word doc/docx, save the file as a “webpage, filtered” for the best results.

Remember: The e-book you want to convert can NOT have any DRM (Digital Rights Management) in it! Calibre’s basic program is not made to crack DRM, and will not convert a book that has DRM. 

Step 3: Highlight the e-book you’re converting and click Edit Metadata. This will bring up this screen:

Make sure the title and author are correct, along with the sort criteria. You can also make sure you have the correct cover and metadata tags as well. If your book has already been published, you can also import the metadata from the web with a click (though this often can take up to a minute or two).

Step 4: Again highlight the e-book you’d like to convert and click Convert Books>Convert Individually. This will bring up the following screen:

The important things here are to:

  • Make sure the box in the upper right corner reads, “Output Format: Mobi” (which is the default for the program. If you are making a file compatible with a Nook or most other readers, you’ll want to set that to “EPUB.” Most of the instructions in this tutorial will be compatible with either format option.
  • Smarten/Unsmarten Punctuation will make all quotes, ellipses, etc. uniform. “Smart” makes them fancy, “Unsmart” makes them text/ASCII quality. Your preference.

You don’t need to bother with most of the other options at this point, though feel free to explore them on your own.

Step 5: Click “Page Set-Up” from the left-hand column and make sure the Output format is set to “Kindle.” If you’re trying to make an epub for a Nook, than set it for the basic “Nook” format.

Step 6: Click “Mobi Output” from the left-hand column and decide if you want a Table of Contents and where you want it placed. For some reason, the TOC is automatically added to the end of an e-book with Calibre. I usually set it for either the obvious front of the book or to not add one at all (my quiz books don’t usually require one).

Step 7: Click the green “OK” at the bottom of the window to commence your e-book conversion. This will take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two, depending on the size and complexity of your e-book (lots of pictures, etc.).

Step 8: After converting, double-click on your book’s entry in the main Calibre window. This will bring up Calibre’s e-book reader, and you can page through to see if there were any problems with the conversion.

Most problems can be fixed with an html tweak here and there. If your e-book looks fine but after a paragraph or two suddenly reads all in italics or bold for the rest of the book, that means there’s a missing tag somewhere. and is a very easy fix (just add an </I> or a </B> where needed). The newest e-book I’m working on I expect a lot of that to begin with, as I’m rewriting the html code for my book templates from scratch, since I’m tired of the formatting errors that Word can often bring to the table because of their reluctance to get with the rest of the world on html code.

Step 9: Right click on your e-book’s entry and choose Save to Disk>Save Only Mobi Format to Disk and there you have it! A nice, pristine Mobi copy of your e-book for lending! Remember, there’s no DRM in this one, so if you post it or give it to folks without any scruples, you could be sailing in piratical waters (ARRRR!), but this would be an easy way to get your books to reviewers, fans, and friends you’d like to get reviews from to bolster your work on Amazon or any of the other sites.

11 thoughts on “How to Convert Your Word Doc into a Mobi file Using Calibre

  1. A good overview. Do keep in mind that Calibre exports are often NOT a good idea for uploading to KDP. Amazon has stated that they will not support uploads of mobi files from any source besides Kindlegen. That’s why the mobi export for programs like Scrivener and Jutoh actually uses Kindlegen (which you must install separately) to generate the file.

    The way it’s been explained to me is that the file Kindlegen creates is actually a wrapper with both mobi and epub files inside. That’s why the Kindlegen mobi files are so much bigger than the Calibre mobi files.

    So Calibre is good for conversion from one format to another – but not so hot for professional upload-ready production.

  2. You make it look so easy! I don’t know what I have been doing wrong. I spent a week trying to do this when I started publishing and never got it to work right. Now that I have these instructions I will give it another shot. Thanks!

  3. Great post Rich! I’ve been using Calibre for over a year now, but I definitely didn’t know how to convert a Word document, so I was thrilled to find there was an easy workaround.

    Apart from sending Kindle ready copies of my WIP to friends and beta readers, I find it much easier editing the WIP if I convert it and read it on my Kindle. I usually have the WIP open on my pc at the same time, and can make edits as I find them on the Kindle.

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