How to put PDFs on your iPad

EPUB files might be nicer to look at, but PDFs are far easier to make and import onto your iPad, no syncing required. We'll show you why it's our favorite way to use the iPad as an e-reader.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read
Watch this: Get PDF books on your iPad

Though the iPad is a fantastic universal e-reader able to handle multiple formats, you're often better off using PDF files than the EPUB format in many situations. This How To video is, if nothing else, a reminder of the fact that the PDF is your friend.

The EPUB document format is admittedly better for its adjustable fonts and formatting, and it's recognized by Apple's iBooks app. But saving your own writing to EPUB format isn't exactly simple. Getting that EPUB onto your iPad still requires connecting via iTunes with a sync cable.

PDFs are the Web's most versatile format, used for everything from digital magazines to personal files. Most word-processing programs including Google Docs and operating systems have very simple ways to convert any file to PDF. The iPad reads PDFs nearly as well as it does EPUB files: graphics and text look good on the large iPad screen, although page-turning isn't as smooth and conveniences such as in-book note-taking aren't common yet. A number of good PDF readers exist on the iPad, including GoodReader and Stanza, but now that iBooks can import and read PDFs that's nearly become moot.

Even better, you can import PDFs into iBooks directly via an attached file in an e-mail, eliminating a need for syncing.

For my own writing (script drafts, articles, plays), PDFs are a great way to retain complex formatting without a lengthy education in EPUB conventions. I still read novels in EPUB or Kindle format, but PDF is how I take my own library on the go.

Maybe someday, importing EPUB files will be handled as effortlessly, too.