Converting e-books for iPod


Q: I recently retired my Treo 650 Smartphone and moved to a Blackberry since the iPhone isn’t available yet. Is there any way to convert my e-books from the Palm format to plain text so I can view them in the notes section on my iPod?

– Cal

A: Although there are no actual e-book reader applications available for the iPod, the “Notes” feature can be used to read any files that are in text format.

Unfortunately, for working with existing e-books, it’s difficult to suggest a solution that will work for all types of content, as there are many different e-book formats for the Palm OS, and whether you can convert them back to text will depend upon where you have obtained your e-books from and what format they are in.

If your e-books were encoded yourself, or downloaded from free or open e-book services, there are some methods available that can convert these e-books back to text format. Unfortunately, e-books that were purchased from online e-book stores such as eReader and MobiPocket are encrypted with DRM protection in much the same way that iTunes Store purchases are, and therefore cannot be viewed using any e-book software other than the applications provided by those services.

If you do have standard Palm “DOC” format e-books (not to be confused with the Microsoft Word document format), you can convert them back to text format by using the free MakeDoc tool. Detailed instructions on how to accomplish this, as well as how to convert between some of the other various e-book formats can be found at HANDebooks.

Once you have an e-book in text format, it will still needs some processing to be usable on the iPod, since the iPod Notes feature can only display files that are less than 4 KB in size. Therefore, all but the very smallest e-books will have to broken up into a series of 4 KB segments. Fortunately, there are some applications out there that will handle this for you:

iPod eBook Creator is probably the simplest solution, as it is a free web-based service, rather than a software program, which will take an uploaded text file and split it into a series of individual 4KB “pages” complete with internal links to move between the various pages.

Two software-based solutions are also worth a look for users with more sophisticated requirements:  iPod eBook Maker and iPodLibrary provide some additional management features, as well as the advantage of being able to convert additional formats such as Microsoft Word, Rich-Text-Format (RTF), and in the case of iPodLibrary, even PDF documents and Microsoft LIT format e-books.


Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.