British author E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has now surpassed even The Holy Bible in terms of search traffic and news mentions.
In what is surely a rare case of ‘old media’ going viral, the below chart shows quite clearly that Fifty Shades – which has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time – went past the Bible for search traffic in June. News mentions first exceeded the Bible as recently as this month, no doubt helped by the news that a film version of the book is to be made by the producers of The Social Network and possibly directed by Angelina Jolie.
The first volume in the Fifty Shades trilogy came out in 2011, but sales of that and the other volumes have really picked up pace this year. The erotic novel, now infamous for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM), topped bestseller lists in the UK, US and around the world. It has sold even faster than the previous record-breaker, the Harry Potter series.
The books, which are thought to have been given a boost because women can read them on their Kindles and tablets without anyone else knowing, have had mixed literary reviews despite their obvious popularity. Jenny Colgan of The Guardian wrote, "It is jolly, eminently readable and as sweet and safe as BDSM erotica can be without contravening the trade descriptions act". However, The Telegraph criticised the book as "treacly cliché", but also wrote that the sexual politics in Fifty Shades will have readers discussing it for years to come.
Speaking of Fifty Shades and the Bible, Damson Dene hotel near Windermere, Cumbria, stirred up some controversy by leaving a copy of the erotic novel in the bedside table instead of Gideon’s bible. Hotel manager Wayne Bartholomew told the Daily Mail:"Fifty Shades of Grey is all that people are talking about at the moment, but I know that some are too shy to buy it for themselves… I thought it would be a special treat for our guests to find it in their bedside cabinet and that includes the men."
Fifty Shades of Grey outstrips The Bible for search traffic and news mentions. Source: Google Trends.