BookBook Travel Journal by Twelve South – Familiar style, incredible practicality [Review]

Sometimes the way I harp on about how much I love Twelve South’s products, you’d assume I was somehow paid to be their spokesperson. I’d like to assure you, I am not. But I am a firm believer that great products do their own PR, and they sell themselves. Over the years, Twelve South has produced Mac-only accessories to a high standard and almost always great value for money. Its HiRise and SurfacePad series’ have become very well-known, but perhaps the most recognizable of all its products is the BookBook range. I have the BookBook for iPhone 5/5s, iPad mini and iPad 2/3/4, and I’m always amazed by the responses I get. When closed, everyone almost always assumes that it’s just an old book. I could quite happily place it on a book shelf somewhere, and it’d blend in. They never fail to start a conversation. And you know you have a great product when it starts conversations, all on its own.

The most recent product in the BookBook range is the Travel Journal. It was originally released back in November, and I’ve taken it on a few journeys with me since then to see how it fits in to my every day life.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 20.54.26Starting with the obvious, the BookBook looks a lot like a book. A really big, really old book. The kind you’d expect to find in an antique book shop, sandwiched in between a 19th century leather-bound copy of Wordsworth’s Works Vol III and Voyages de Gulliver. It’s covered in leather, and given some rough treatment to make it look really old. It’s really nicely stitched, and has some embossed patterns in the corners to give it an authentic finish. From the outside, the only things hinting at its true identity are the small, embossed Twelve South logo on the back cover, and the gold ‘BOOKBOOK’ and ‘TRAVEL JOURNAL’ lettering on the spine. And as we know, the best thing about leather is the smell. It’s fantastic. (Yes, I like smelling things. Yes, I know that makes me a little weird.)

Two zippers with leather tabs hold the case together when shut, and the magic happens when you slide one to open it. Internally, the two sides of the case operate slightly differently. On the left side is where most your bulky items will be kept. It has a hidden sleeve to store an iPad in. It also has a small purse-like pocket made of tweed and leather in the bottom third, perfect for your iPhone or for keys/money etc. Above that are two elasticated mesh pocket that can be used for anything from wall adapters and earphones through to USB cables and clip-on cameras. On the right side is pretty much a free-for-all. Unlike the opposite cover, it doesn’t have any pockets or compartments, just a couple of strong elasticated straps equipped with grippy Velcro. Anything that can be held in place with these can be kept there. Whether it be a small, portable hard-drive or a set of foldable headphones. Lastly, there’s another elasticated strap running horizontally through the middle. It’s split in three parts. The one segment on the inside of the spine is the perfect size for the Compass stand by Twelve South, and can’t be used for much else.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 20.54.16Aesthetically, this thing is beautiful. While the outside is all aged and authentic looking, the interior’s combination of grey tweed, brown leather, black cotton and splashes of bright red combine to great effect. The only part I’m not keen on, looks-wise, is the plasticky material used around the edges. But, with its purpose being to hold the zipper to the rest of the case, I can appreciate why it was chosen. It’s flexible, durable and more water-resistant than the rest of the case. Although the case isn’t waterproof – by any means – the rubbery/plastic material around the edges will offer some protection from rain trying to leak in and ruin your devices.

I’m sure by now that I’ve convinced you how gorgeous this case is. But a case – or any carrying accessory for that matter – needs to be practical too. With accessories like this, that can be measured two ways. Firstly, it has to be able to fit everything I could possibly need inside. Secondly, it has to be easy to carry. And for the most part it delivers on both counts, but it has its issues too.

By far the most important part of the case – for me – is the large pocket for the iPad. Over the holidays I travelled down to visit family, and didn’t have a notebook at the time, so I took my iPad Air and Logitech keyboard cover. To my surprise, it fit in to the provided space comfortably. My iPhone fit inside the purse/pocket I mentioned earlier. As for the mesh pockets, I kept a couple of Lightning to USB cables, the power converter unit and wall plug for my iPad, and an ōlloclip clip-on lens for iPhone. And this was where the Travel Journal struggled a little. British wall plugs are pretty bulky, and no matter which way I put it in the case, the BookBook still struggled to zip shut. Of course, I used the space on the inside of the spine to stow the Compass Stand, and used the provided elasticated straps for holding down a couple of pairs of earphones.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 20.54.42All in all, it did its job pretty well. And I can’t hold too much against it for not being designed with the British plugs in mind. What I will say is that it won’t replace a backpack. I normally use a rather large set of V-moda on-ear headphones for listening to music, and carry a couple of iPads (one for me, one for the kids) on vacation as well as a DSLR, a whole load more cables. I also would normally use a larger, more sturdy portable iPad stand, which won’t fit in. But, then again, I should keep in mind that it’s probably not been created to be a be-all end-all carrying solution for vacations and trips. This is for when you want to grab all the essentials and maybe spend an afternoon in a coffee shop, or go away for a weekend. That said, if you have small enough gear, you can easily fit it all in here.

Think about it this way: I had an iPad plus keyboard case, iPhone, ōlloclip lens, 2 USB cables, wall adapters, an iPad stand and earphones. Those are really the essentials for me, even if it meant leaving my preferred gizmos at home.

It’s only other drawback it that it doesn’t have a handle of any kind. Personally, I prefer to keep my hands free as much as possible when walking around. But, since the Travel Journal is supposed to look like book, they could hardly attach a long shoulder strap to it. That takes away any element of security it has. And that’s a feature that really needs pushing here. Because it looks like an antique book (until you get really close), no one seeing it would think to snatch it. Despite not having a massively complex padlock system, its one of the most secure cases on the market, just because of its design. And that’s really rather wonderful.

Overall, I’m impressed that Twelve South’s design ethos has been continued in to such a practical accessory. It looks fantastic, holds almost all you could possible need to go along with your iPad and iPhone, and have I mentioned, it looks fantastic. If you want to buy one for yourself, or check it out in more detail, hit Twelve South’s store. It’s available now for $99.99. If you want to grab one in the UK, they’re available for £74.99 from various online spaces, including Amazon.


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