For such a superficial city, Miami does alright by its bibliophiles (that's book lovers for you who aren't). We have a big-time book fair every fall, successful independent bookstores like Books & Books, and a healthy helping of the two major chains Barnes and Noble and Borders.
But without exception, everything that has to do with books in Miami happens in the center of the county or to its north. Southern Miami-Dade County, on the other hand, is a wasteland of literacy. Or at least a virtual black hole for bookstores.
Not counting Miami Book Inc., a mom and pop paperback exchange in
Cutler Bay, there are no bookstores from the Borders in Pinecrest south to Homestead--a stretch close to 20 miles.
"Running a bookstore is like a lost art," says Patricia Van Allen, owner
of Miami Books, Inc. "It's like kids nowadays don't even want to be
seen holding a book in their hands. They want to get everything from the
Van Allen says that the B. Dalton Bookstore that closed half a decade
ago in Cutler Ridge Mall represented the last exodus of major bookstore
chains to leave the southern half of the county. A pity, she says, for
an area that could support more bookstores if anybody bothered to check.
"It's like the book industry abandoned the southern part of South
That might be a reach, says Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and
the unofficial godfather of Miami's literati. "There's nothing nefarious
about it. The communities thin out as you get farther south," he
explains. "And you can't have a bookstore on every corner." Kaplan says
that it's not unreasonable to think that residents of Palmetto Bay,
Cutler Bay, and even farther south, will get in their cars and drive to
Borders and the mega Barnes and Noble on Kendall Drive, much like
they do when they go to Dadeland.
Kaplan says individuals can also get copies of bestsellers
at Walmarts, Targets, and other large shopping stores. Finally, he
said the nature of bookstores and their popularity is in flux. He
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pointed to the recent New York Times article on how e-books are capturing
more and more of the market for book sales, even impacting sales at chains like
Barnes and Nobles and Borders.