How hard is it to get your hands on 'Grey'?

'Grey' by EL James can be yours Thursday

Come Thursday, "Grey" will be everywhere. As EL James' fans know, it's the surprise fourth book in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" erotica series. This time, the romance will be told not from Anastasia Steele's perspective, but from Christian Gray's.

Usually follow-ups to bestsellers are announced months or years in advance. Advance copies are sent to booksellers so they can place orders and reviewers to plan media coverage. Some highly anticipated or revelatory books might be shared only under embargo. But none of these things happened with "Grey."

The book, which officially hits shelves Thursday, was kept secret until June 1. Officially, no one has it.

No one, that is, except Matt Lauer, who was handed a copy on the "Today" show Wednesday morning. EL James is scheduled to appear on the program Thursday.

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And (possibly) someone in Kent, England, where a copy of "Grey" was reported stolen by Penguin Random House, the book's publisher. It's not clear exactly what happened in Kent. The publisher maintains that there was a theft, but a Kent police spokeswoman told the BBC, "Following a report that one book had been stolen after packaging was found to be damaged, there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that an offense has been committed."

And EL James, of course. The author, who is active on social media, has shared just one snippet from the book: An Instagram photo of the title page which reads, "'Ask me for your panties, baby.' Grey by EL James."

Pre-orders of "Grey" propelled it to the top of Amazon's bestseller list, where it remains.

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