I always keep my antennas up for new ways I can improve business resilience / continuity.  Sometimes I come up with ideas that utilize manual improvements but more often than not, my ideas involve technological solutions. The idea we will discuss in this post came to me in a really round-about way. Here is what happened:

A short while back I was researching some new racewalking and running techniques to hopefully improve my 5k and 10k racing times and to lessen the likelihood of getting a running related injury. I decided to see if there were any books that might be of use to me.

I found a book on Amazon that looked interesting and most of the reviews were decent, but not great. Then POP BANG HOLY BATMAN! the next review I read mentioned a book that the reviewer thought was fantastic! He said the author was a former world-champion runner and that the book was packed with easy to implement information to improve times and lessen the likelihood of sustaining a running related injury by teaching proper technique. The book had helped the reviewer significantly improve his racing times and avoid injury. It seemed on-target for my needs.

Although I had never heard of the book I was intrigued and wanted to know more. Easy enough, I would find it on Amazon, read the inside sample posts, buy it, read it, lower my racing times and not have to worry about getting injured! Hey, I had a plan! We always need a plan, right?

Well, as you know, sometimes things do not work out according to our plan and we must be resilient. Remarkably, the book was not on Amazon. What! How could that be? So, on to plan B; we always have a plan B.

Perhaps I had the wrong name of the book or the author. I started Googling and lo-and-behold the book appeared in the search results. It seems the book was decades old and not available on Amazon. It was available on several running websites but only in PDF format.

Next, I downloaded the PDF. The content was just what I was looking for but it was over 100 pages and I did not want to read it on my desktop or a tablet. I do not enjoy reading books or very long documents on my tablet. The screen seems to tire my eyes. I much prefer reading on my Kindle back-lit DX.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem reading lengthy PDF’s on a Kindle BUT fortunately there are some really cool solutions. The solutions might even provide nice value to your business resilience program, otherwise this post would not have made it to the book.

The PDF to eBook Process:

So, how do we get a pdf on a Kindle? I had downloaded and read hundreds of .MOBI Kindle formatted eBooks and documents from Amazon but I did not even know how to get a pdf on the Kindle. A little digging demonstrated it is easy. You simply email the pdf to your Kindle email address. You can find your address in the Amazon Digital Content Settings. It will be something like <<your user name>>@kindle.com.

I tried emailing the pdf and it worked on the Kindle! I was so happy and I was about to write the solution up for the article you are reading. Imagine simply saving your plans as pdf’s and having them available on an inexpensive/long battery life e-reader.

We all know how critical it is that we are able to access and use our business continuity plans during any disruptive event. We cannot count on having power or even back up batteries when traveling. Even with battery-backups, a tablet may only have enough power for a couple of days.  My Kindle easily holds its’ charge for 2+ weeks. It is also back-lit, even though it is a dinosaur compared to some of the newer Kindle and Nook devices, which are still really cheap.

When I opened the pdf on my Kindle I instantly had the wind knocked out of my, ‘hey Marty you think you are so smart’ sails. The font size was really small. I mean teensy-weensy small. I mean magnifying glass required small.

I figured I could adjust the font as I do with .MOBI formatted eBooks on the Kindle. Unfortunately, that is not the case in pdf format. If I enlarged the font size the words scrolled off the screen, which made it almost impossible to use. There was no way I could read that 100 page running document unless I held a magnifying glass in front of my eyes.

I started Googling again.  Every post I read indicated  the solution is to not read pdf’s on a Kindle. Just use your tablet. Not exactly the solution I was seeking. Then at 2 am after digging through hundreds of posts (I never give up) I came upon one that mentioned PDF4Kindle. Hmmm.

PDF4Kindle is an online pdf converter whereby you upload your pdf and it converts it to a .MOBI file. That is the format used by the Kindle to do all the neat formatting and page turning. When I visited the site I was met with a notice in big letters saying they  were ‘taking a break’ and not available at this time.

I searched some more and stumbled upon a different cloud conversion solution. I ran the running pdf through it and it did a fairly good job. A few formatting errors here and there and the table of contents was not perfect but definitely a solution that would enable me to read a long document or book and it would save my eyes. But I was not satisfied!   I wanted great formatting and I had no intention of using a third party cloud solution for security reasons.

I continued my research and came upon what I think are two great pdf to eBook conversion solutions. Both seem to be secrets to many people. I want to share them with you:

Solution 1)

Very easy. Email the pdf file to your Kindle and simply put ‘convert‘ in the subject line. That will convert the pdf to .MOBI and queue it up for the next time you synch your Kindle. The final product is readable and has all of the .MOBI options available to you including resizing fonts to fit the Kindle screen. It is a good solution but for my needs it did not stack up to Solution 2, which I found much more powerful with only a little more work to convert the pdf.

Solution 2)

Very Powerful. This solution takes approximately a minute to convert a pdf to .MOBI but for the negligible additional time investment it provides incredible benefits allowing you to fine tune the final .MOBI book. You can even brand your final product with your company information and create custom search tags. In addition, it can be used for many other input and output files including ePub which is used by many other e-reader devices including The Nook.

The product I use is called Calibre. It offers many conversion and formatting options. It took me a minute to download the conversion program from calibre-ebook.com. I installed it and was amazed by how easy it was to import various types of documents and output to formats such as .MOBI, ePub, DocX, RTF, Zip and many more. It is a very powerful program. As of this writing of this post Calibre is free because a large community of software developers devote time and energy to the Calibre solution. Hopefully, when you read this post it will still be free.

I converted the running book pdf using Calibre. I tweaked the settings a few times testing various output options. I then emailed the .MOBI file to my Kindle email address. Lastly, I synched the Kindle and it found the new file and installed it on my device within 15 seconds. So cool!

I was so impressed by the job Calibre did!!  The formatting was comparable to any eBook you would purchase on Amazon. Calibre has so many features. It even has a built-in heuristic option that allows Calibre to figure out how to improve the formatting of the raw pdf.  By default, heuristic it is not enabled and you may not need it. Try it both ways.

Ok here is the Business Continuity payoff: I experimented using Calibre to convert a few business continuity plan pdf’s to .MOBI. It did a great job every time. The newly converted plans were very usable on the Kindle. I did have to scroll a few of the wider tables in the plans to view them on the  limited Kindle screen but I was able to minimize that by re-sizing the fonts on the Kindle. I was able to do that as the plan was now in a true .MOBI format.

I also adjusted the source output that produced the plan from my BCM system so the pdf that Calibre uses to convert to the .MOBI file would be more conducive to the limited Kindle screen. Fortunately when using a BCM system the data is stored in a database. This separates the data from the presentation layer. I was therefore able to easily export a more narrowly formatted e-reader specific version from my system in addition to maintaining the wider paper version and a desktop version.

Finally, to make sure I was not the only person on the planet that did not know how this can be accomplished, I ran it by a few very tech savvy friends. They were impressed and now use the solution for their pdf conversion-to-eBook needs.

Tip – If you will be storing plans on your Kindle or Nook I strongly suggest you enable a password on your eReader. On the Kindle DX it is located from: Home, Menu, Settings – Device Options.

All-in-all I am very happy with the two solutions I described. You should give each a try and see which works best for you and your users. In my case Calibre was the better choice but the first solution may be useful to you, especially if you are not at a desktop that has Calibre installed on it.

I hope you get use out of this idea, whether it is for your business continuity plans or for use in your personal life. Imagine, now any pdf, and many other types of documents, can be enjoyably consumed on a light, cheap e-reader.

Have Fun!