Anyone who has walked by Campus Customs on Broadway can tell you that “Yalies dribble too!!” Or at least that’s what they have learned from a bib displayed prominently in the window of the store, which sells Yale-licensed merchandise.
Now a new piece of paraphernalia has entered the growing market of gear for the Yale-bound baby. “Yale 101: My First Text-Board-Book” gives a broad overview of college life and life at Yale for the diaper-wearing set. Subtitled “The required primer for every future Yalie age 1 to freshman,” the book has been selling well at the Yale Bookstore since its release in the beginning of August.
“Yale 101″ is part of a series that currently covers ten colleges and universities, including Dartmouth College. The book’s publisher, Brad Epstein of Michaelson Entertainment, said he was surprised by the success of the Yale edition because the Yale student and alumni base is much smaller than that of schools such as Texas A&M and the University of Southern California, whose editions are the series’ best-sellers. He said the Yale edition has also generated national interest because of its Ivy League cache.
Epstein said he originally conceived of the line of books as a way to keep his two-year-old daughter occupied during his study meetings while at the University of California, Los Angeles for his MBA degree. The books were designed to let parents and grandparents revisit their college years and share their alma mater with their young relatives. But he said that the book’s purpose has broadened.
“We designed it as a serious item, but I think it’s evolved to be a fun item, a novelty item,” Epstein said.
He said he has heard of students buying the book for their dorm rooms or parents buying it for their children as a joke graduation presents.
Each page of the book has a heading, some of which include “Pride & Tradition,” “Dorm Room” and “Campus.” The “Pride & Tradition” page showcases the school colors, motto and mascot. Revealing Yale’s true notions of fraternity, the section also includes the Whiffenpoofs. The “Campus” page, along with showing photos of the Peabody Museum, Beinecke Library and Harkness Tower, also includes Berkeley College as the representative of colleges at Yale. The “Dorm Room” page features a Motorola cell phone and a Sony stereo — “to be authentic” Epstein said.
Epstein said it was important to the company to represent the school faithfully.
“We’re very conscientious about making sure that we capture the full flavor of the school,” Epstein said.
At Book Haven, the book is displayed on the counter and competes for attention with a set of President Bush playing cards. Matt Roger, a Book Haven salesperson, said the store received a promotional copy of the book on Sept. 22, sold it the next day and ordered six more copies, none of which have sold.
Roger said that customers who look at the book usually have one of two responses.
“[The books] are kind of a fun Litmus Test,” Roger said. “People are either horrified by them or think they’re great — and we won’t comment on which we think is the right response.”
Many students chuckled quietly to themselves while flipping through the book. Eric Harding ’98, who also works at Book Haven, said that customers usually do not respond with words.
“It’s more just noises,” Harding said. “Sort of like the book, pre-verbal.”
For the most part, students who got past laughter said they found the book “cute,” but were not interested in purchasing it themselves.
Irina Plevako ’05 said that she was impressed by how the book presented the factual information in a funny manner.
“I think it’s a good book for children,” Plevako said. “Sometimes it’s hard to deliver serious stuff without humor.”
Many students said they thought it was unclear whether the book was intended seriously.
“I think it’s more of a joke,” Davina Bankole ’05 said. “It’s interesting, though.”
While students said they mostly considered the book and other baby paraphernalia novelties, Atticus Bookstore employees said their store does not treat “Yale 101″ any differently from the rest of its children’s books. Instead of being prominently displayed at the counter as it is in Barnes & Noble and Book Haven, “Yale 101″ is located in the pre-school section of Atticus.
Ann Salomon, a salesperson at Atticus, said that although Atticus is not paying any special attention to the book, people seem to enjoy it.
“We’re not featuring it in any major way,” Salomon said. “I think people just say it’s cute — people get a kick out of it.”
Michaelson Entertainment plans on expanding the line to more universities, including Cornell, Stanford and Columbia, Epstein said.