Mitchell Kaplan: Bookstore guru crosses media lines via films, podcasts
It’s a good thing for Miami-Dade that Mitchell Kaplan decided against becoming a lawyer. The founder and president of Books & Books has done a lot to deepen the county’s cultural footprint over four decades, and if his activities in recent years are any indication, he’s far from finished.
But for a short spell as one of thousands of recent English degree graduates in the late 1970s, he entertained the idea of going into law – his father’s profession, with which he had a familiarity.
He attended law school for two years, but it only reinforced his desire to steep himself as deeply as possible in his love of literary culture.
“The notion of becoming a bookseller kept bubbling up. I found myself in bookstores more than in the law library,” he said. “So I left law school and came back to Miami.”
And the rest is history. He opened Books & Books in Coral Gables in spring 1982 just two blocks from where the business’ flagship location stands today. Two years later, he co-founded the Miami Book Fair, now the largest of its kind in the nation.
Over time, additional Books & Books locations sprouted up in Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, Pinecrest, Key West, Coconut Grove, the Adrienne Arsht Center and Miami International Airport, as well as one in Grand Cayman.
Mr. Kaplan is now also a publisher, podcaster and successful movie producer, with numerous film projects in production. All are based on books, of course.
Asked if he’s considered delegating oversight of Books & Books to someone else so he can focus more on those newer ventures, his concise answer is not a chance.
“I love what I’m doing with film and television, [but] I will always be attached and involved with Books & Books,” he said. “When an opportunity is presented, I always ask myself, ‘Why not? Why not try?’ I don’t like to take too many risks, but saying ‘why not?’ is the way you discover things and grow as a person and professionally.”
Mr. Kaplan sat down with reporter Jesse Scheckner.
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See below the interview, recorded by Jahmoukie Dayle.