What is a recommended tool for turning a completed manuscript (a Word document) into an ebook (specifically, an EPUB file or Kindle-compatible Mobipocket file)?

I would prefer something that:

  • recognizes chapters and generates a table of contents automatically

  • allows me to add front/back matter

  • gives me control over styling.

8 Answers 8


I have been using Calibre to format my e-books, and I have been very happy with it. However, as PseudoCubic noted, it will not accept a Word document as input. Ideally, you should convert your file to html first and then format it with Calibre. If you convert your Word document to html, make sure you choose the Web Page, Filtered option. Otherwise, Microsoft adds a lot of extra tags and stuff that will really mess up your html file.

For some other suggestions on converting your file to html, I would recommend going to this guide by Guido Henkel. He will walk you through all the details for making sure that your html file is properly formatted first, and then he shows you how to use Calibre to include your cover image, table of contents, and other material.

I haven't used Scrivener, so I don't know whether or not it can create both file versions (ePub and mobi) straight from your completed document. If your book is already finished and you want to use Scrivener, then you will have to import it there first, and you may want to review your content to make sure the formatting still appears the way you wanted it. If you are a Windows user, you'll need to use the beta version for Windows.

There are other tools that will convert your files, but all of them work better converting html documents because the tags for the formatting are clearly defined. If you are comfortable working with html, then you may want to give that a try first.

  • Scrivener does compile both ePub and .mobi file formats, but you have to have a structured project to have the table of contents, front/back matter, page breaks between chapters, etc. I write in Scrivener (it is a great tool and is a long time out of beta on Windows), so compiling a book is very easy for me, but re-creating the whole project just to export it to ePub might be overkill.
    – Lew
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 15:35

Scrivener can compile to various formats including EPUB and Kindle formats, and gives you lots of control over formatting. Here is a video tutorial showing how it's done.

It is available for both the Mac and Windows, with a Beta version for Linux.

  • 3
    I beat Lauren to it :) Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 14:59
  • 1
    Ha! You did! Good for you. More members of the Scrivener Fan Club are always welcome. :D Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 15:27
  • Updating answer to include fact that Scrivener has been available on Windows for quiet some time now. Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 10:35

You might want to try Calibre, which is a pretty powerful ebook conversion tool. To my knowledge it won't accept a Word document directly as input, but you can convert your manuscript to another format from word first, like HTML, plain text, or even PDF, and import it into Calibre for conversion.

  • Looks like I'm a little late to this thread but I just wanted to comment that although Calibre is pretty useful, you may not be able to achieve the level of customization you want. The details involved in conversions can be difficult to master.
    – user3204
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 16:30

Check out Sigil. It's a multi-platform EPUB ebook editor with the following features:

  • Online Sigil User's Guide, FAQ, and Wiki documentation
  • Free and open source software under GPLv3
  • Multi-platform: runs on Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Full UTF-8 support
  • Full EPUB 2 spec support
  • Multiple Views: Book View, Code View and Split View
  • WYSIWYG editing in Book View, supporting all XHTML documents under the OPS specification
  • Complete control over directly editing EPUB syntax in Code View
  • Table of Contents generator with multi-level heading support
  • Metadata editor with full support for all possible metadata entries (more than 200) with full descriptions for each
  • User interface translated into 15 languages
  • Spell checking with default and user configurable dictionaries
  • Full Regular Expression (PCRE) support for Find & Replace
  • SVG support and basic XPGT support
  • Supports import of EPUB and HTML files, images, style sheets, and fonts
  • Documents can be validated for EPUB compliance with the integrated FlightCrew EPUB validator
  • Embedded HTML Tidy: all imported files have their formatting corrected, and your editing can be optionally cleaned
  • Native C++ application

Downloads at Sigil's github page. If you like to be notified of new releases, there's the Sigil website.

  • SIGIL seems to be pretty good and the user interface quite stream line from the screen shots. And I assume the formats it exports to are accepted by most readers?
    – Vass
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 11:35
  • Sigil is a great tool, and may do the job perfectly for most people. But Calibre does seem to be the spiritual successor to Sigil, just for how actively it's maintained. (Sigil needs more contributors to help out.) Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 7:07

Go with http://www.smashwords.com/

This website has a web app for converting word documents. But it's a very stringent one; Converts only those documents that adher to the guide lines provided in it's free E-book --> http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

Although it looks like a big book, many of the pages were filled with big pictures. So, it won't take more than 2-3 days to complete it. Also, it gives a clear perspective of how not to write an E-book with word, which you can use for your future books. Also, once your book passes the test, your book could be made available through their store which serves E-book apps such as Apple's ibookstore, Aldico etc.,

Also, many authors, who have published the kindle version of their books at Amazon, refer to it as a definitive guide.

Hope this helps. Happy writing

  • I've read their style guide, as a prelude to an e-book project of mine, and I wasn't impressed with the description of Meatgrinder. Their distribution engine seems impressive. For fiction or very simply formatted non-fiction (i.e., no tables or graphs that aren't graphics), Smashwords may be appropriate. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 4:37
  • hmm, if you are going for a graphics one, better go with the new mac app "iBooks Author" released by Apple. Never used it since I am a windows boy, but the screen shots are alluring. http://www.apple.com/ibooks-author/
    – King
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 17:34
  • Alas, that's just for the iPad. Doesn't do Kindle or other e-books. PDF is still the best way to do an e-book with complex graphics or charts or tables. Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 18:46

Apple's Pages can import MSWord docs and export ePub.


Only helpful if you are using a Mac of course :-)


You can check Pressmo.com - works fine, you can use PDF files, it has a flip page effect and the conversion is fast.


I wrote a piece of software that converts OpenOffice (or LibreOffice) files to Kindle and ePub. To answer your questions:

  • It automatically recognize chapters and creates a table of content for both Kindle and ePub
  • You can easily add front and back matter, it will be recognized and added to the table of content. To do that, you just add a heading to the page (same as for chapter titles) and make it invisible.
  • Styling from the odt file is converted: indent, justification, font style and size, drop caps, images and wrapping, etc. All the editing can (and should) be done in LibreOffice.

Also a few other advantages:

  • The final mobi file is accepted by Amazon (because we use kindlgen as a final step in the conversion.)
  • It runs on Windows and OS X and is quite fast.
  • It allows you to embed fonts, or, if the font cannot be legally embedded (general case), to convert headings and drop caps into pictures that can be legally embedded in the ebook.
  • There are templates with front/back matter to explain how to format the document.
  • The software is completely free.

I hope you'll find it useful. You can get it here:


  • I appreciate that you're disclosing that this is your own software, but you've answered two questions like this on the site. I'm converting this into a comment, but in the future, it'd probably be best if you answer questions with more than just a link to your own software or the system may automatically flag you as a spammer. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 20:02
  • However, this is a case where you can discuss why your software is particularly good. How is it better than other tools out there? Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 20:03
  • @Alki Nea, but what if you don't use LibreOffice?
    – Vass
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 11:39
  • @Vass Install LibreOffice and open your Word file.
    – Lew
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 15:40

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