A while back, I told you about some beautiful embossed smart covers for iPad from an Etsy store called Handiwork by punkassjim. Inspired by the cover of an old electrical handbook, Jim Thorpe set about creating a cover for his iPad that incorporated the cover design of the handbook. Luckily for us, he realized his process lent itself to making more cases. When I first found his Electric Library covers back in February this year, I was disappointed that he didn’t have a cover in the bright red that I love. I kept looking, and I placed an order the moment I saw he had added a true red.
Click the images in this review to enlarge.
The cover is hand-assembled for you when you place an order. Jim says a cover is usually ready to ship in a couple of days, but circumstances can sometimes require a week or so. Because of a shipping problem, it took a while longer than that to get my cover. As you can tell from the top photo, it was worth the wait.
Jim has a YouTube video discussing his covers. He also has a series of photos on Flickr that show his process. The short story is that he found and purchased the old book, copied the cover design, and created an embossing plate by hand-carving the design into a linoleum block. I don’t know if he still does it the same, but his photos show him using the weight of his car to emboss the leather.
In his early efforts, he bought some knock-off Smart Covers and used the hinges and magnets in his covers. Jim quickly found a source of damaged or otherwise unsaleable official Apple Smart Covers and scavenges parts from them, now.
He builds the Electric Library covers with a backing board inside to give the cover structure. He also buries the magnets from the Apple cover in his backing board, so his cover will sleep/wake the iPad. There are other magnets to hold the cover closed.
Here’s a comparison of the Electric Library cover and the official Apple Smart Cover in red leather. They have essentially the same measurements, so they both fit the iPad perfectly. The Electric Library cover weighs 4.6 oz on my digital kitchen scale; the Apple leather cover weighed 4.8 oz.
The cover I received is nicely embossed, with all parts of the design clear and uniformly deep. The leather has a slight grainy texture to it. The red stain is evenly applied. The website info says that the “red veg-tanned leather has no need for treatment or protectant. Color will not easily run or stain.” I did experience some dry crocking, which is the transfer of the colorant to lighter surface when rubbed together. I’ll probably be careful not to allow much contact between the cover and a white or light-colored clothing.
Despite weighing a bit less, the Electric Library cover is a bit thicker than the Apple cover. Here I’m comparing it to a green polyurethane Smart Cover so it’s easier to see the differences.
The backing board is a solid piece, meaning this cover will not fold into a stand. Because there are no channels where the cover folds, you won’t find any dirty stripes on your screen like you see with the official cover.
The description with most of the other colors specify a microfiber lining fabric, but the red cover has a real suede lining. The suede wraps up over the front leather where it wraps around the magnetic hinge.
The leather in the hinge area is cut evenly and smoothly. You can see the finished edge of the cover at the right. The edges are “pinched” together. In the video, Jim says he uses epoxy to bind the cover together.
Here’s the hinge attached to my new iPad. It fits just like the official Smart Cover fits.
The Electric Library cover folds around to lay flat against the back of my iPad. I removed it for these pictures, but I usually have a clear back cover on my iPad, and the cover still lays flat with that in place. Because the cover doesn’t fold, it doesn’t flop around and fold down as you hold the iPad in the horizontal orientation.
The Electric Library cover sleeps and wakes my iPad flawlessly. Jim notes that he’s always paid attention to the polarity of the magnets as he places them, so you shouldn’t experience a problem like some people have had with other iPad covers and cases.
The magnets also hold my new cover closed against the screen. Between the magnets and the “attraction” of the suede to the glass, the cover holds closed better than the official Smart Covers.
I think the Electric Library cover is utterly beautiful. It’s well made, and it works just like the official Smart Cover. If you don’t use the stand function and you’d like something unique and retro, give the Electric Library cover a try.