Controversial 'Fifty Shades' trilogy reaches historic sales milestone

The racy "Fifty Shades" book series by E. L. James has been causing a stir since hitting shelves in April with its erotic plot line and subsequent ban in various libraries across the country.

In Harford County, the public library system made the decision not to carry copies of the book after it was deemed "pornographic" by the library director.

But for people who want to buy just one book or all three, they're on sale at various local stores, including The News Center in Bel Air.

The News Center in Bel Air is one retailer that carries the series, and had a small display at the register.

"We do sell a lot of it, though," one employee commented.

She explained that purchases are sporadic — sometimes selling several books in a row and sometimes none at all.

"So many have read it now it doesn't seem it's selling as fast," she said. "It seems like a lot of people are getting it on their iPads or Nooks."

The employee said she'll hear comments from customers wondering why the store sells the book, yet the library doesn't carry it.

She added that she has not heard any comments opposing the sale of the book, but noted they also sell racy magazines, such as "Playboy."

Another News Center employee, who also declined to give her name, said she doesn't approve of the book. Her colleague agreed and said she won't read it because the main character is "controlling and [sadistic]."

Carolyn Spangler, who was at the store to purchase some greeting cards, saw the display of books near the register.

There were nine books total, held up by plastic holders.

One employee commented that while there were only three or four books behind the register on some shelves, it is usually more stocked.

"I haven't read it yet," Spangler, a Bel Air resident, said. She said she was open to reading the series and has heard comments from friends that the first book in the trilogy isn't as good as the final two. "Everybody wants to read it."

She added that some friends of hers have commented that they don't want to shell out the money to buy the book series, but wished the library carried copies so they could read it for free.

Now, the trilogy is the talk of the town again as sales sailed past the 20 million mark this week, making it one of the fastest-selling book series in recent history.

"Fifty Shades" publisher Vintage announced Monday that sales surpassed 20 million copies Monday and have brought in about $145 million in revenue, according to The Los Angeles Times.

In comparison, The Wall Street Journal reports "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy by Stieg Larsson reached the 20-million sales mark after more than three years in the market.

Where the two differ, however, is all "Fifty Shades" books were released at the same time in U.S., while Larsson's books were released in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

On the best sellers list, as of Thursday afternoon, the "Fifty Shades" trilogy box set was No. 1, with 67 days in the top 100, the first book of the series was No. 2, with 118 in the top 100, book two was No. 3, with 118 in the top 100, and the last book in the trilogy was No. 4, also with 118 days in the top 100.

For the week of July 15, the series took the first three spots of The New York Times best sellers list in order of the trilogy with 18 or 17 (third book) weeks on the list.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in the spring, the book series made up 20 percent of all print adult fiction sold, as shown by Nielsen's BookScan numbers.

Those hoping they've heard the last of "Fifty Shades" will have to wait a little longer.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that producers of "The Social Network" will produce the film adaptation of the series.

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