Monday, October 31, 2011 at 10 a.m.
In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer
screens November 24, Cultist presents "Miami Backstage," where
we feature the city's behind-the-scenes culture makers. Have
suggestions for future profiles? Email email@example.com with the whos and whys.
When you think of Books & Books, two things jump to mind: 1) It's the hippest, most intelligent independent bookstore for many states, and 2) owner Mitchell Kaplan. The handsome Miami Beach native is the most enterprising book-slinger around. Most of his patrons proudly refer to themselves as "Mitchell's friend." Quite a feat for someone who owns highly successful stores in multiple locations, including Bal Harbour, Lincoln Road, Long Island, the Cayman Islands, and even Miami International Airport. He's a popular guy.
Kaplan, the former President of the American Booksellers Association, founded Books & Books in Coral Gables in 1982. In 2000, he expanded and moved the store across the street to its current location. It's a destination spot for bookworms worldwide, serving up smart books for little and big readers, presenting a laid-back but stylish coffee spot in the Mediterranean classic coral edifice and vine-adorned courtyard.
The world's most famous writers, movie stars, even former heads of state clamor to read their works and sign their books at Kaplan's stores. The balmy Miami weather helps bring them to town, but it's really Kaplan's competence that gets them here.
You've invariably enjoyed the fruits of his labor at the Miami Book Fair International, which he co-founded and currently serves as chairman of its board of directors. He is also on the steering committee of Miami Dade College's Florida Center for the Literary Arts.
Just this year, Kaplan's work will be recognized by the National Book Foundation, which will present him with the prestigious Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. This will place him among such other esteemed book nerds as Ira Glass and Terry Gross.
We can't claim that Kaplan's entirely responsible for keeping South Florida literate, but it's likely he's the main catalyst. Next time you see someone you know enjoying a paperback on the sand or a hardcover at Starbucks, remember, they just might be another of Mitchell's friends.
1. List Five Things that inspire you:
--My Books & Books family
--Organizations like The Center @ Miami Dade College that work so hard to sustain literary culture in Miami
--Organizations like Shake-A-Leg Miami that so selflessly try to better the lives of others who face hardships
--The work of teachers everywhere
2. What was your last big project?
The 2010 Miami Book Fair International
3. What's your next big project?
The 2011 Miami Book Fair International
4. Why do you do what you do?
This is something I'm still trying to figure out.
5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?
I'm certain that the physical book and the physical bookstore are in no danger of disappearing.
What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?
I'm fascinated by e-book technology.
Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.