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Who’s Really Reading 50 Shades (pssst… it’s not just mums)

Recommender system supports reader advisory, connecting patrons with the “right stuff”

London, UK - November 29, 2012 - As it turns out, label of “Mummy Porn” for the 50 Shades Trilogy isn’t entirely accurate, says a new analysis of buyers of the novels by Bowker® Market Research. Only 35 percent of purchases of 50 Shades books are by women with kids at home. A snapshot of buying habits from January-June 2012 showed the appeal of the books has been far more widespread, with 13 percent bought for those over 55 and 30 percent being bought by men.

“It’s a remarkable phenomenon. Fully one-third of adult fiction books purchased for women in June were from the 50 Shades Trilogy,” said Jo Henry, Director of Bowker Market Research, a service of ProQuest affiliate Bowker. “Certainly, the ability to read these books discreetly on an e-reader is a factor, but women are not shy about discussing them. Over 33 percent of the books were bought on the strength of a recommendation from a friend or relative.”

Compared to the typical adult fiction consumer, buyers of the Fifty Shades books were more likely to be married women, in part time work or looking after the home, and living in the North of England. They read for escapism, but say they don’t read as much as they used to. They were more likely than average to be tabloid readers – about 25 percent read the Sun -- and users of Facebook and Twitter. In fact, social networking played a relatively large role in helping these consumers choose to buy the Fifty Shades books, with one in six purchases discovered through social media.

While most of the books were bought to read for pleasure, an intriguing two percent were described as being bought for “reference”, “study” or “self help.” One in five purchases were to give to someone else -- most commonly for a spouse/partner, but a courageous one percent bought for a parent.

The analysis of 50 Shades buyers is drawn from Bowker Market Research’s Books & Consumer, which collects data on book purchases from a nationally representative sample of approximately 3000 U.K. book buyers per month. The data relates to purchases of books in the Fifty Shades trilogy, by E. L. James. To learn more about any sector of the U.K. consumer book market, contact James Howitt at

About Bowker® ( Bowker is the world's leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. Creators of products and services that make books easier for people to discover, evaluate, order, and experience, the company also generates research and resources for publishers, helping them understand and meet the interests of readers worldwide. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and its territories. The company is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey, with additional operations in England and Australia.

Contact Information

News Media
Beth Dempsey
for Bowker
Phone: 248-349-7810