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Miami Proud: Books & Books Owner Mitchell Kaplan Built Miami Book Fair Through Love Of Literature

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The Miami Book Fair is a world-class literary event, kicking off its 36th year on Sunday, November 17.

Book Fair co-founder Mitchell Kaplan says the Magic City and the business of storytelling has made an evolution through the years.

"I literally have met 10,000 authors over the course of my 40 years of doing this," Kaplan recalls.  Kaplan, the owner of Books & Books, has built a life through his love of literature.

"That was something, meeting Isaac Singer a writer who wrote in Yiddish who won the Nobel Prize. He was our very first book signing, Collective Stories of Isaac Singer. We had Salman Rushdie when he first came out of isolation because of the Fatwa and that was really exciting," says Kaplan.

While walking through his Coral Gables flagship store, he is greeted by author Judy Blume, a partner and owner of the store in Key West.

For Kaplan, an English major turned teacher, turned entrepreneur, his vision was purposeful.

"To use books and literature and the literary life in a way that it can bring people together and explore ideas," he says.

In 1984, Eduardo Padron, then president of Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, envisioned a literary event for downtown Miami and enlisted Kaplan and the Miami Book Fair was born.

"There was no other fair like it. What we did was married a street festival with a program of authors and in many ways we were kind of pioneers in that aspect."

Hugely successful, the Book Fair put Miami on the map culturally, a renaissance of sorts, paving the way for other large cultural events like Art Basel.

"The Miami City Ballet, the opera, New World Symphony, Miami film festival. Miami has become a completely different place and it's all because of the Book Fair," Kaplan says half-jokingly.

All joking aside, books are big business and Kaplan's passion for stories has evolved into hosting a podcast, starting a publishing company and film production company.

Mitchell Kaplan
Mitchell Kaplan, Books and Books owner and Co-Founder of the Miami Book Fair (CBS4)

"We've made four films now and we have about 12 projects in the works including some television programs."

Connecting people with books continues to fuel his drive. So what is his favorite thing about the Book Fair?

"What I love to do is on Friday, when the children come, the students, standing in the middle of it and watching the thousands in a very low tech way go through the booths find a book they might like, listen to an author. It brings all of us back to why we started the Book Fair."

The Miami Book Fair is held from November 17-24 at MDC in Downtown Miami.

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