Four ways to convert a Word document for reading on an e-reader

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Reading a document on an e-reader is an invaluable step in the review and editing process. Problems with the flow and structure of text are so much easier to detect on an e-ink screen, because you can approach the document with the objective eye of a reader rather than its author.

So, what are the easiest options for converting a document from a word processor format into a format readable by an e-reader? This post looks at the options, assuming that you have a Kindle e-reader.

Kindle Personal Documents Service

This is a simple way to send documents to your Kindle e-reader via email.

Each amazon device has a unique email address associated with it. All you need to do is create an email to the relevant email address, attach the document to this, and type convert in the subject field.

This works for documents in a variety of formats, including .doc, .docx and .txt format. (The full list of viable formats is listed on the Amazon site).

The document can be received in 3 ways depending on the type of e-reader you have. The easiest method is via wifi – the document if automatically receive next time you turn the e-reader’s wifi on and check for updates. Alternatively, you can send it via USB. For 3G users, you can receive via Whispernet, but this method is not free.

More details on using the service and its costs are available from Amazon

 Transfer as .txt file via USB

This again is a relatively simple way to read the text of your document. You do lose all of the formatting, but if that isn’t an issue, it’s an easy option.

The steps are: from Word, view and save the file as a .txt document; connect the Kindle via the USB port and copy the file to the documents folder.


Use Sigil and Kindlepreviewer to convert to a .mobi file

Sigil is a cross-platform ebook editor that allows you to create and edit books in epub format. The following methong does produce a relatively viewable file, but it can be problematic because of the potential for additional html code being added to the text. If you are looking for a simple method, it’s better to go for the next option instead.

The steps in the Sigil process are:

  • Open a new file in Sigil. This will display the content file, Section0001.html in the central section of the screen
  • Toggle to Book View mode using the <F2> screen, or using the View menu
  • Copy and past the content from your word file.
  • Validate the epub content using the green tick or the Validate option
  • Resolve errors. Depending on the formatting there are likely to be several types of errors:
  • <language> element is missing and <title> element is missing. This can be resolved by opening the Metadata editor in the tools menu. Add a title and select ok. Revalidate the file and the error will be gone.
  • Attribute align is not declared for element ‘p’. This is caused by any centre aligned paragraphs in the word file. This can be resolved by searching for <align> = “centre” and removing it from the text. You need to switch to code view to do this. Remove and revalidate and the issue is resolved.
  • Another important step is to remove unnecessary code from the beginning of the file. Go to <body> and highlight everything down to the first line of text. i.e. just before the first <p revalidate and then save.

Then open in kindlepreviewer. This should now convert to a mobi file, with warnings.


Use Calibre to convert to .mobi format

Calibre is an open source e-book library manager for Linux, Macintosh and Windows platforms. It is a comprehensive tool for managing ebook libraries, but it also has some very advanced conversion tools.

The steps for converting a document using Calibre are:

  • Use the Add Books option on the toolbar then search for the document you want to import. With Calibre you can import documents in .odt and .docx formats.
  • Once added, right click on the file, and select convert books, then convert individually. This opens a conversion dialog box. Leave the default settings, but make sure the Input format matches the file type you have selected.
  • Select the output format. For a Kindle choose MOBI, then select OK.
  • To copy the converted ebook to your device, connect via a USB cable. Once connected, right click on the title and choose Send to device, then Send specific format to, then Main memory. This opens a dialog which allows you to select the .mobi file. Select OK.

Calibre is the simplest method of converting a document. The default settings preserve formatting and produce a readable copy of the document.