Book Exchanges

By Curt Bench


During my nearly four decades in the book business, I’ve come across a lot of things that have made me smile—or at least scratch my head at the sometimes not-so-eloquent ways we booksellers and buyers communicate. Here are a few favorites, each of them absolutely true. You can’t make up stuff like this!


‑A recent ad in a local popular online classifieds venue boasted the following: “$35,000 the oldest german. I have the oldest German bible you have ever seen with pitchers.” As one of my employees and I analyzed it, we wondered if this seller were offering pitchers of good German beer to whoever might buy this book. Of course, it would be just my luck if that “oldest German bible” turned out to be a Gutenberg (worth millions)—but then, we can’t imagine this seller would recognize Latin (the language of the Gutenberg Bible) if he or she saw it.


‑In 1984, while I worked at Deseret Book’s main store, we hosted a book signing for Linda Newell and Val Avery, the authors of Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. As I stood off to the side overseeing the event, two different customers asked me: “So what is a ‘Mormon Enema,’ anyway?”

‑One day someone phoned in to find out if we’d buy used books. The conversation went as follows:

Caller: I have some books for sale. Will you buy them?

Benchmark: Are they LDS books?

Caller: What are LDS books?

(Our employee explains what LDS means.)

Caller: What do you give for them?


‑A woman called me after a fire destroyed her personal library of 150 or so books. She needed to have the books valued for insurance purposes, but she didn’t have a list and couldn’t remember the titles. That didn’t stop her from asking: “What do you think they’re worth? Do you think they could be worth $150 each? I really hope they’re worth at least that much.”


A gentleman called to say he’d like to buy a book.

Me: I’d love to sell you one.

Caller: Do you need to know the title?

Me: That would help.


‑A woman asked one of my employees to check to see if we had a book she wanted. Said she: “I don’t know the author, but I have the title. Do you need me to give that to you?”


Caller: I’m looking for a book that was never published.

Benchmark: Do you mean an out-of-print book?

Caller: Yes, an out-of-print book.


‑One of our favorites is about the caller who let us know where we were really located:

‑Caller: You’re the bookstore on Seventh East, right?

‑Benchmark: No, we’re on Main Street near 33rd South.

‑Caller: No, I’ve been to your store before; you’re on Seventh East.


‑After seeing books on our sale table with stickers showing the regular price (higher) and the sale price (lower), some customers have asked: “So, which price is it?” We’ve decided now to answer that question with, “You choose.”


Caller: Do you have a copy of [title given]?

‑Benchmark: We have two copies—both clean, in great shape with no writing or marking.

Caller: No writing?

Benchmark: No writing.

Caller: But they still have words, right?


‑An employee was showing a few rare books to a good customer of ours, who was accompanied by his wife who was browsing the shelves. The employee thought that if the customer he didn’t already have it, he might be interested in purchasing a rare book we had just acquired, The Sex Life of Brigham Young, by “Kishkuman Cooper.” (There’s a great story about that book that I’ll save for another column.)

Benchmark: Do you have Sex Life?

Customer: No.

Customer’s Wife (from afar): Oh, yes he does!


In my next column I’ll share some of the funniest titles we’ve been asked for—ones we wish were real but, alas, are not.