Readers Looking for 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Face Long Waiting List

Word of mouth and viral marketing have created a huge demand for the erotic novel.

People are talking about J. L. James' novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and apparently St. Charles County residents are anxious to judge the novel for themselves.

According to a catalog search of the , 701 people have the book on reserve as of June 7. The district has 116 copies in its collection.

"We also have it as an e-book," said the district's Marketing Director, Maggie Preiss. "We have 85 e-copies, with 238 people on a waiting list." The district also has the novel as a downloadable audiobook (with a waiting list of 43) and as an audiobook on CD (with 73 on the waiting list).

Preiss told Patch that she can't remember the last book to demand such a large waiting list. "Favorite authors, like James Patterson, or series like the Hunger Games books will have a waiting list of 350 to 450. For popular DVDs, we might have a waiting list of 400-500."

Amazon.com has an amazing 5,667 customer reviews for the book. (By comparison, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has 3,738 and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind has 474.)

The Amazon reviews for Fifty Shades go from one end of the spectrum to the other:

  • "The most appallingly atrocious writing I've ever seen in a major release"
  • "My arthritis flared up just reading about Ana's sexual gymnastics"
  • "A total embarrassment on so many levels"
  • "Love the books could not put them down"
  • "Best set of books I have read in the last 2 years"
  • "I never write reviews about a book, but this one is so terrible I can't keep it to myself."

According to Wikipedia, Fifty Shades of Grey started as internet fan fiction based on the characters from the Twilight series. The author re-wrote the book and created a three-book series available as an e-book and as print-on-demand in 2011.

Preiss told Patch that although the first book in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey, has a waiting list over 700, the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, has 239 on the waiting list and the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, has 199. "Once they read the first," Preiss said, "there seems to be less interest in the rest of the series."

Some libraries have removed the book from shelves or chosen not to add it to their collections. tells about a Maryland library that has done just that.

Preiss said that she knew of no complaints about the book to the St. Charles City-County Library District. "We do have a process if a customer asks us to reconsider a purchase," she said. She mentioned a Florida library that removed the book, but returned it to shelves because of customer demand.

"That's our job," Preiss said. "To have the books that people want to read."


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Ray Antonacci June 08, 2012 at 02:45 PM
How does a government entity, like the public library, balance customer demand and censorship? I have heard that this book is somewhat sexual in nature. Does the library have a committee that reviews books and decides if a book should be carried or not? Who has the ultimate decision? If this book gets 1 complaint will the library keep the book from the 700+ readers who are on the waiting list?
Tamara Duncan June 08, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I'm not sure, Ray. Maybe someone from the Library District can chime in? From what I'm hearing "somewhat sexual" is a bit of an understatement for this book -- but it's in demand and the library does not consider it pornography.
Ray Antonacci June 08, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Pornography is a strong word. It has different meanings for different people. Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart said, "I know it when I see it". For the library, who knows it when they see it? Library people? please chime in. My opinion is, if there is a demand for a book (by adults) the library should make it available. I know our library is doing their best but I am commenting on the other libraries who have banned it from their shelves.
Rich Pope June 08, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Libraries should not be in the business of censoring books. Period.
Melissa June 08, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Seriously, the book is like $12 at Target...just go buy it.


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