Naughty books

A few weeks ago, someone who saw me reading on my Kindle while my son had his karate class asked me if I’d heard of a book called Fifty Shades of Grey.  As I usually am when anyone asks me if I’ve heard of a book and I haven’t, I was a little embarrassed (never mind that with a gazillion books published every year, it’s not possible to know about every last one of them or that my memory for titles and authors’ names is shockingly poor for someone who, well, works with titles and authors—do I sound a little defensive?).  I asked her what it was about and she told me it was a romance that she was trying to get a copy of without success.  I suggested Amazon and promptly forgot all about the discussion.

Of course, I now know that Fifty Shades of Grey is the latest publishing phenom (an allegedly not very well written kinky sex fest for Twilight fans who thought the vampire saga was too squeaky clean, according to Jezebel) and that Vintage has plopped down a ton of money for the print rights to a book that is currently selling like hotcakes…online.

Which raises a number of interesting questions.

As the Wall Street Journal  points out in a piece about the rise in sales of books that women have traditionally been embarrassed to be seen reading in public, e-readers have made sales of romance and erotica skyrocket precisely because of the privacy they afford.  So, how wise is a seven-figure investment for print rights to a book that people may not want others to see them reading?

And, does all of this mean that books in these categories will go exclusively digital in the near future?  I know lots of smart, professional women with a weakness for what we used to call “bodice rippers” in the good old days (before Kindles and romance branding) who didn’t want to be caught dead on the subway behind a cover of some buxom lass being ravished by a half-naked Fabio type.  I can also imagine all the soccer moms who don’t want their kids to know what kinds of books they’re devouring while they extol the virtues of Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter.

Personally, I do think that e-readers are liberating in that way.  In my line of work, I occasionally have to read things that may be a little hard to explain to casual acquaintances or even my six-year-old.  What about you guys?  Do you find yourselves sneaking around reading naughty things on your e-readers?  And, do you think this is one of the “intangibles” that publishing people have overlooked when trying to figure out the value of e-books vs. print books?

8 Responses to Naughty books

  1. Nah, I’ve always read the “bodice rippers” with pride. My Kindle hasn’t changed that at all. (Except now, I can’t swoon over the hot guys on the covers as easily.)

  2. I’m guessing those households don’t share a family kindle account then :-)

  3. My “cover shame” typically involves young adult books, which many people in my professional office environment don’t exactly get. I have many methods for hiding less than stellar books, but the e-reader is great for hiding an embarassing cover.

  4. Joelle says:

    I’m wondering where will pre-teens get their information if they can’t read all the books they’re not supposed to on their parents’ shelves?

    Seriously, I don’t have a kindle, and I’ve only recently started picking up a romance here or there, but I could see me more likely to read the explicit books, or romances on a kindle than I would carry them around. I mean, I’m not embarrassed to say I’ve read Delta of Venus, but I’d prefer not to be seen reading it on the ferry or in the coffee shop where my student writers might ask what I’m reading.

  5. emily says:

    WOW! I was SO ignorant — so one day in a place Far-Far-Away, my highschool chums were swooning over a big book on the public library display table. One girl held it to her [still flat] chest and proclaimed how much she wanted to read it. Another wailed because it was ‘banned by the priest.’

    Of course, being Baptist, I picked it up as soon as they laid it down and went home to read.

    My mother was so proud to know that I was reading ‘historic fiction.’ At the time a rash of famous Bible books like The Robe, were on the bestseller lists and in movies.

    The book was the first in a long series of naughty romance adventures and gave me a love of reading for fun.

    Long live the bad girls with their naughty books!

  6. ryan field says:

    Not all publishing people have overlooked this :) FSoG is simply the first to go mainstream.

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