South Miami-Dade: Where Books Go To Die?

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

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.

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