Are sexy novels saving Barnes & Noble?

'Fifty Shades of Grey': The floundering book retailer exceeds financial expectations in part because of a pleasant sales bump from a series of erotic page-turners.

By TheWeek.com Aug 22, 2012 11:51AM

"Barnes & Noble (BKS) loves mommy porn," says Peter Kafka at All Things D. The struggling bookseller reported a smaller loss than anticipated for its most recent fiscal quarter, thanks to a surprise jolt from the sexed-up "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy.


Millions of fans have been devouring the guilty-pleasure erotic novels, which center around the indulgent sexcapades of the heroine Anastasia Steele and her older wealthy lover Christian Grey. The first novel has become the fastest-selling paperback of all time, beating out even Harry Potter. 


Here's what you should know about Barnes & Noble's economic stimulus package:


How did Barnes & Noble do last quarter?
Not as bad as Wall Street had predicted. The company reported a net loss of $41 million -- an improvement from 2011, when the quarterly loss was $56.6 million. Overall, revenue grew 2.5% last quarter, to $1.45 billion.


How does 'Fifty Shades of Grey' fit in?
Barnes & Noble saw "rapid growth in content sales from its Nook e-reader," as well as "unexpected strength" in bookstores thanks to booming sales of the E.L. James trilogy, says Steve Schafer at Forbes. How big of a boost did Fifty Shades give the bookseller? Barnes & Noble won't say exactly. But to get an idea of how well the books are doing, the trilogy occupies the top three spots on The New York Times' best-seller list in both print and e-book fiction. 


Is 'Fifty Shades' really saving Barnes & Noble?
It's certainly helping. And the company is optimistic about the future, with plans to release a new Nook tablet in the coming months, and to spin off the digital side of its business into a new subsidiary using a $300 million investment from Microsoft. "The digital content is still growing pretty quickly," Peter Wahlstrong, a senior analyst with Morningstar Equity Research, tells The New York Times. That means "that either the overall end market is growing or [Barnes & Noble is] taking share, which is encouraging."


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