I took Twelve South’s BookBook for Air for an extensive spin through a bunch of everyday usage scenarios and in various urban and Mediterranean settings.

I have an admission to make: I’ve never been a big fan of protective cases for Apple products. There, I said it. I especially have an issue with notebook cases, many of which unfortunately can be brushed off as cheap-looking, overpriced gimmicks that don’t hold a candle to Apple’s industrial design. I didn’t cave even after the paint had started to come off of my first Apple notebook, a titanium-clad PowerBook G4, because I bumped it one time too many.

It is fair to say that in all those years I’ve never gotten my head around utilizing protective sleeves to keep my pricey hardware in pristine condition. To me, Apple gear is meant to be displayed, touched and marveled at. The BookBook case for Air has changed my preconceived notions overnight. Oozing style, premium quality, convenience and authenticity, it’s the first case I reckoned would actually protect my Air whilst keep those prying eyes at bay. It’s what notebook cases are meant to be, at least in my view.

If there ever was such a thing as the ultimate hollowed book trick, this is probably it.

For the record, I’ve seen, touched and tried hundreds of cases over the years, including sleeves by Twelve South, a small Mount Pleasant, South-Carolina-based shop renowned for the accessories engineered exclusively for Apple computers (their tagline fittingly proclaims “We’re not just Mac friendly – we’re Mac only”). Eagle-eyed readers might point out we already highlighted their hollowed out book case and its wallet-shaped counterpart for iPhone. TwelveSouth was kind enough to send along a review sample just as I was purchasing a 13-inch Air this summer.

As I hit the coastline at the time to work from the beach, an opportunity presented itself to put the case through its paces in a variety of environments and interesting settings. While ensconced in it, my Air’s definitely seen some action. I’m talking extreme heat, sun rays on the beach, sunscreen grease, slippery fingers, fingerprints – not to mention bars, nightlife, girls gone mad and what not.

Build quality and details are striking even at close inspection.

I’m pleased to report the computer emerged victorious, having survived every incident without a scratch. The BookBook case itself looks just as new (or ancient), a testament to its build quality. In fact, I slip my notebook inside to run daily errands downtown and catch up on the latest news while sipping my morning coffee. From the outside, the BookBook case features two hardback covers with extended corners and a round, splayed spine cushion. Its dusty tome look has proven to turn heads, even if the two zippers treacherously give it away (but to a trained eye only).

A pair of elastic bands slip around the corners of your Air so you can use it inside the case.

I often chuckled as folks would think I had plucked an ancient book from a local library, more often than not demanding to inspect the well-worn “tome” with genuine curiosity. Flipping the case open reveals the soft, brown padded interior and a pair of elastic bands that slip around the corners of your notebook’s display. This lets you open the case and begin immediately using your Air without pulling it out. Leather does a good job protecting the machine from liquids, pesky dust particles, harsh environment and even accidental drops. Overall, the case feels sturdy and compact.

Attention to detail: Designer cornices tell you which side is the top.

Like the computer it’s made for, the BookBook case delights with attention to detail. The two designer cornices subtly indicate which side of the case is the top. The leather zipper pulls look like bookmarks. It’s hand-distressed to ensure that no two are alike. It weighs in at just thirteen ounces so it adds very little bulk to the Air. All told, there’s very little to dislike about this accessory. The biggest concern for me are the metal zippers that might – if you’re really sloppy – scratch the Air’s profile when zipping/unzipping the BookBook. I was also left wanting for a pair of additional straps at the bottom in order to better affix the notebook in place. Apart from those two little things, I have no major objections to the product.

The genuine leather case is handmade and hand-distressed to ensure that no two are alike.

If you’re anything like me – that is, a suspicious and whining type – you’ll want to double-check my review by taking a look at the BookBook case in one of the stores. My two cents? Take the plunge and I’ll swear you’ll never want to settle for anything less than pure perfection. The BookBook for Air costs eighty bucks and is is available for the 11-inch mid-2011 and late-2010 MacBook Air and the 13-inch mid-2011, late-2010 and the original Airs. The case can be ordered via the online Apple Store, Twelve South’s home page and through a variety of retailers worldwide.

Nice touch: Leather zipper pulls look like bookmarks

The BookBook for Air by Twelve South

• hard covers and splayed spine make it easy to grip it firmly • chocolate brown padded interior looks cool and protects the notebook inside • everyone will fall for the well-worn Harry Potter spell book look

• metal zippers might scratch your notebook if you zip/unzip in a hurry • no straps for the notebook’s bottom inside the case • lacks personal engraving option

• no ugliness here whatsoever