This is the story of how one bookstore, Books & Books, has been able to continue to grow and change and ultimately survive and thrive in what remains an incredibly challenging environment. It’s the story of how through the hard work of a virtual generation of booksellers, a bookstore finds itself making a difference.
Mitchell Kaplan, the store’s founder, started his career working part-time for one of those chains that populated every suburban mall so many years ago. He was a recovering law student – leaving after two years – and had just begun a graduate program at the University of Miami, which would allow him to teach so he could earn a living. But, he was clear about one thing, bookselling, not teaching, was what he really wanted to do.
Armed with all this, Mitchell opened the first Books & Books in 1982 in a small, 500 sq. ft. space in Coral Gables, Florida, which is really Miami. The city at that time was a fairly bleak place; the Mariel boatlift had just brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Miami, with no place for them to go and no infrastructure to support them. They were living in squalid tent cities and their children were having a difficult time integrating into a school system that wasn’t prepared for them. Racial tensions were also bubbling up and there were a series of riots that were wracking the city. Time magazine declared in a front-page story that Miami was a paradise lost.
All of this was before the advent of Miami Vice, the rediscovery of the importance of Art Deco architecture and before, even, the notoriety of the Cocaine Cowboys. No excitement, no opportunity, just a city collapsing under the weight of its circumstances. This was the state of things when he opened, at the age of 25, the first Books & Books.
“In Miami, at the time, there were many other independent bookstores; in fact, nationwide, over 50% of all books sold were sold in stores like mine and there were probably close to 4,500 members of the American Booksellers Association. There were hundreds of English majors all over the country dropping out of law school and opening bookshops. Square Books in Oxford, Ms., Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., Village Books in Bellingham Washington, R.J. Julia in Connecticut, Book Soup in Los Angeles, King’s English in Salt Lake City, Utah, Changing Hands in Arizona and the list could go on and on. These bookstores were also living and breathing examples of the tradition of bookselling that so inspired me, the bookstore as community center, as cultural focal point.”
Now housed in an exquisite 1927 building listed in the Coral Gables Register of Historic Places, across the street from the original store, Books & Books in Coral Gables is the central store, hosting over 60 author events a month, featuring presidents and Nobel prizes winners, athletes and artists, celebrities and poets and a variety of other community-based events.
The 9,000 square foot, Mediterranean-style building has hard wood and original tile floors, a fireplace, beamed ceilings, floor-to-ceiling dark-wood bookshelves, an open-air courtyard and a full-service café, serving beer and wine.
Books & Books continues to host a monthly Art Exhibit that began in 1985 inside its Coral Gables location. We’ve showcased hundreds of local, national and international artists and their artworks over the years. The work is sold through the register, with Books & Books acting as a gallery and getting a percentage of what is sold.
We are one of the few venues left in Coral Gables for free, live music so the bookings are quite competitive. We nurture many of the music students from local universities and colleges, by giving them a chance to perform.
Many interesting collaborations have stemmed from the series, including a 25th Anniversary Concert produced with Grammy Award-winning bassist Esperanza Spalding and Grammy award-winning violinist Federico Britos.
“From the very beginning we established ourselves as the store where literary events took place alongside the selling of books,” recounts Mitchell. “We had open poetry readings that drew hundreds each month and our very first reading and signing was with Nobel Laureate Isaac Singer, whose Collected Stories had just been published by Farrar, Strauss. In those early days we developed strategic partnerships with everyone: schools and universities, places of worship, business groups, clubs and even local governments.”
The bookstore also, early on, developed a very strong following for our vast collection of books on art, architecture, and photography. Although these were specialties of ours, you could also find the finest poetry, fiction and essays from the small and university presses at our store. It was clear that our selection would help us develop a customer base that would pass up other stores to shop with us.
In 1989, Books & Books took the plunge and opened a second store, a second store on Lincoln Road right in the heart of South Beach. For Mitchell, it was a coming home. He grew up in Miami Beach and the bookshop he frequented then, a Doubleday Bookshop, now closed, was right across the street from the store’s new home. Although the state of the city was somewhat better, the area we now opened in was still a bit raw; a serious homeless problem was complicated by a burgeoning criminal element making South Beach its home; the movie Scarface was not too far off. In fact, a legitimate business opening on South Beach was so significant that The Miami Herald ran our opening with a front page headline: Books & Books Comes to Miami Beach.
We used the same formula for this store: a unique ambiance, a distinctive selection with an emphasis on the arts and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. We also built community ties with events and found ways to support the new cultural and educational groups beginning to spring up on Miami Beach. As we grew so did the profile of South Beach. Fashion shoots could be seen on every corner, art deco hotels and apartment buildings were being renovated, and tourists that had once given up on South Florida were being lured by the publicity that a hit TV show, Miami Vice, was bringing to the area. At one point Oprah Winfrey and Anne Rice both had apartments on South Beach during this period and the area was beginning a resurgence.
Opened in 1965, Bal Harbour Shops was the first all-luxury fashion center featuring high-end retailers in a tropical, open-air setting. In April 2005, Books & Books was invited to open a third location inside the ultra-chic Bal Harbour Shops mall.
The director of marketing at Bal Harbour Shops, Cheryl Stephenson, is a longtime fan of the bookstore and has taken a special interest in programming at that location, working hand-in-hand with the bookstore staff to create a special store with author events that match the customer demographic.
A recent and very interesting partnership in that location is The Fashion Project, which will launch on April 10, 2015, as an experimental space devoted to curatorial projects and programs that explore fashion and the culture surrounding its design, innovation, production, and consumption. It was conceptualized and developed by Cathy Leff, previously director of The Wolfsonian–FIU, another long-time partner.
“The Bal Harbour Shops has the highest dollar per square ft. ratio in the world. Every major luxury brand is represented, but they had no bookstore, ever since the demise of the Doubleday Bookstore chain, and the owners of the mall made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse, reducing our risk and allowing us to take our brand of bookselling into a mall setting. It worked,” says Mitchell.
This partnership came about because members of the Board of the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center had envisioned how the presence of Books & Books could positively impact the new up-and-coming neighborhood where The Center resides.
The bookstore combines the usual Books & Books ambiance, selection and service with a fine restaurant/café. Under the direction of James Beard award-winning Chef Allen Susser, The Café at Books & Books is located within the ground floor of the Arsht Center’s designated historical landmark Carnival Tower and boasts a diverse menu and a full service bar.
Books & Books has been very astute at leveraging our brand, nurturing relationships, networking and creating many innovative and outside-the-box ideas. These relationships allow us to partner with others who want a bookstore in their communities (or countries) and seek our help and guidance with buying, marketing and developing an author appearance program.
“The Books & Books model has proven highly adaptable to diverse communities. Each of the stores benefits from its own distinct layout and design, while managing to convey a similar sensibility and character,” explains Mitchell. “Title selection at each location reflects the preferences and special interests of the surrounding community.”
In December 2007, Books & Books went international with the opening of a fourth location in The Cayman Islands. Situated in a new multi-million dollar development, Camana Bay, Books & Books in Grand Cayman serves both the visiting and local population of the island with visiting international author events.
Camana Bay is fast becoming a hotspot for both residents and visitors. It’s also home to a six-screen cinema run by Hollywood Theaters and a variety of local retailers and international brand names.
“This bookstore would not be out of place anywhere in the world,” says Karl Noble, of Books & Books at Camana Bay. “This is not only true of the design and physical layout, but also of the books we stock. We offer the latest publications from authors all over the world and specialize in writers from North America, Britain and the Caribbean as these are where most our customers are from.”
Caribbean authors played a significant role in the store’s opening, when literary stars such as Marlon James from Jamaica, Lisa Allen-Agostini from Trinidad and Ana Menendez, the daughter of Cuban exiles, were invited to read from their latest books and sign copies for the public. The event was themed ‘Southern Florida meets the Caribbean’ in acknowledgement of Books & Books roots in Miami.
Books & Books has already extended their literary circuit to include the Grand Cayman store. Eric Weiner, author of “The Geography of Bliss” opened the International Visiting Author Series, sponsored by The Cayman Island Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways and Sunshine Suite Hotels.
Visits by Patrick McGrath, Lorna Goodison, Michael Ondaatje, Sebastian Barry, Alan Alda, Candace Bushnell and Lisa See, among many others have followed. The store is now hosting one visiting author a month as well as hosting local authors and story time events for children and families.
Robbie Goolrick, author of A RELIABLE WIFE, finished his last novel, HEADING OUT TO WONERFUL in Grand Cayman through a writer’s residency created especially for him at that location.
In July 2010, Books & Books opened a new store in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. The store is an affiliate of Books & Books and here, we’ve partnered with Jack McKeown and Denise Berthiaume -- two of the publishing industry’s most respected and innovative veterans.
“We coordinate intensely with Mitchell’s marketing team in the Coral Gables offices on everything from major author appearances to email newsletters,” says Berthiaume. “Everything is branded “Books & Books,” of course, because that is a name that already resonates within the publishing world to such a large degree. We work together to extend that recognition further into the Internet as well, by using many of the resources of our Verso Digital online network to reach consumers directly.”“We think this expansion of the Books & Books brand through this affiliate relationship may represent a new model for independent bookselling,” says McKeown.
Books & Books is also conveniently located at Miami’s International Airport, in Terminal D, in the American Airlines terminal. This was another affiliate partnership with Areas, a company based in Spain. This is a small store, but it boasts a spectacular selection of titles, including many titles in Spanish and adds quite a bit of revenue to our operations.
Books & Books and renowned entrepreneur and founder of Crunch gyms Doug Levine developed The Newsstand by Books & Books as a revival of the metropolitan newsstands of days gone by, dynamic gathering places for the community with a European coffeehouse charm.
The Newsstand by Books & Books brings a coffeehouse-bookstore concept to downtown Miami, at the Southeast Financial Center.
From bestsellers to cutting-edge literature, from current affairs to arts, The Newsstand boasts the very best of Books & Books’ carefully curated selection.“With The Newsstand by Books & Books in downtown now, you can have the Books & Books experience – the joy of a good book, a good meal, a good conversation – right in the middle of your workday. Or the beginning or end of the day,” says Levine.
Recently, in Coral Gables, a couple of cultural organizations came on the scene to transform Aragon Avenue into a cultural hub. Books & Books has joined forces with these groups in order to expand its impact and explore ideas for partnering.
Directly across the street from Books & Books is the Coral Gables Art Cinema, a state-of-the-art theater that opened in October of 2010 and is one of the best, most comfortable and highest grossing art houses in South Florida.
Programming director Nat Chediak, is the former director of the Miami Film Festival and a Grammy award-winning film and music producer.
Mitchell sits on the board of the Cinema and together with Nat works year-round to create special programming with the Cinema that involves panel discussions, visiting authors whose books have been adapted to film and activities that have created a back-and-forth synergy with the Cinema.
Located directly across the street from Books & Books in Coral Gables. We lovingly refer to the place as Films & Films.
A few years ago, we were able to partner with the Cinema and the Spain’s Cultural Center to bring visiting filmmaker David Trueba to Miami, an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and filmmaker as well as media columnist for El País, Spain's leading daily.
The Coral Gables Museum, located right next door to our Coral Gables bookshop, was founded to showcase the history of South Florida. Now, there is a Gift Shop by Books & Books inside the Coral Gables Museum.
The Gift Shop is filled with items that reflect the quality of the museum's exhibitions as well as unique gifts – and books about the history, architecture and culture of South Florida.The Museum Gift Shop is conveniently located near the main entrance of the museum and does not require museum admission. Books & Books stocks and sells books by authors and presenters who speak at the Museum on a monthly basis and for special events. Many of these events are organized together with Books & Books.
Books & Books employs a sales person whose sole job is to develop and process business and school orders.
Our Corporate and Educational Sales program started in June 2009 and we now boast annual sales in this channel of over $500,000.
Mitchell partnered with Ausbert de Arce, founder of the U.S. branches of Taschen and Assouline, and Motherland, along with creative director and cultural historian Petra Mason, to create Books & Books Press, which began its publishing operation in 2010.
It has since published award-winning titles for private clients, museums and Rizzoli New York in the fields of fiction, travel, architecture, interior design, photography and history.
To date, Books & Books Press has published: Annette Bonnier's India's Elephants, South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance, Blue Christmas: Holiday Stories for the Rest of Us, edited by John Dufresne, the Centennial Edition of the bestselling Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford, Magnolia by bestselling author Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Vodou Saints by Arthur M. Fournier, M.D., Plus One: An Outsider’s Photographic Journey into the World of Fashion by Sharon Socol and Nancy Sharp’s Both Sides Now, just nominated for a 2015 Books for a better Tomorrow.
In 2012, in a joint venture with Rizzoli Publishing, they released two titles: Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pinup Photography’s Golden Era, and Aragones, on the work of Mexico’s leading contemporary architect.
We are always striving to make connections between our publisher partners and our customers and community.
For example, as a result of talks at Winter Institute, Books & Books invited Michael Reynolds, of Europa Editions to Miami to present An Evening with Europa Editions during which Michael spoke about the founding of Europa Editions and it’s history of publication.
Based on talks at BEA, we met and invited then-publisher of Granta, John Freeman, to stage a series of events in collaboration with Granta and thereby hosted talks and panel discussions based on their editions.
Johnny Temple and Akashic Books helped us launch our Grand Cayman location by bringing some of their authors to the inauguration, including the now uber-famous Marlon James.
Craig Popelars of Algonquin Books told us all about his preferred Algonquin titles and performed his unique song about Books & Books based on the Piña Colada song.We also stage seasonal Book Club Mixers, themed nights where potential and current book clubbers play games and win ARCs of upcoming books and hear from publishers about upcoming titles for their clubs, and form new clubs.
The key to everything that Books & Books does in its community and how it brings its brand to other communities, both in the U.S. and nationally, or even internationally, is its focus on unique partnerships.
For example, in an effort to offset the cost of sending visiting authors on tour, Books & Books has cultivated relationships with local hotels to put authors up for free, in exchange for either hosting the author on their premises, or acknowledging their partnership in our promotions.
The Betsy Hotel in South Beach is one such hotel with whom we partnered with from inception. The owner’s father was a poet and they have taken an interest in literature and culture as part of their mission. Our first partnership with them consisted of providing a selection of books for every room in the hotel and partnering with the hotel to begin presenting author events and working on collaborative projects.
In exchange, they hosted countless visiting authors for free in their hotel and now have an actual WRITER’S ROOM where visiting authors can stay. They have recently purchased the historic, Art Deco hotel next to them and are planning to expand into a full cultural campus with a 300-seat theatre, where Books & Books will be able to host many author events and have an outlet in South Beach.
In 2009, we partnered with the Fairmont Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona to bring authors there and created specialty weekend events.From September 25 to December 6, 2009, the “Season of Personal Discovery” weekends invited travelers to follow their passion and learn life-enriching skills by spending time in the world of self-improvement, the culinary arts, with masters of mystery and with book club novelists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry, mega-blockbuster lawyer-novelist Scott Turow and New York Times best-selling crime author Ridley Pearson, to name a few.
Books & Books helps identify and pair visiting authors for a number of different groups and organizations who piggyback on these visits to create an additional speaking opportunity for their members.
The past is prologue—this phrase of Shakespeare (The Tempest, Act II, Scene ii) is the motto of Miami’s Prologue Society. They are a group of about 150 avid readers who are keenly interested in history and in the authors who write history.
Cristina Nosti, Events & Marketing director for the bookstore, is on the board of the Society and does the booking of authors for the series. The Society purchases 125 copies of the book for their members.
Likewise, Mitchell is responsible for identifying and booking authors for the Brickell Avenue Literary Society, a private membership group that hosts lunches with literary greats and purchases 200 copies of the book for their members.
Howard Socol is the former CEO of Federated (Bloomingdales and Macy's) and Barney's of New York. He and his wife, Sharon, have a home in Miami as well as New York City. They have been working with Books & Books for 6 years now to identify and host authors on the subject of Israel for the Socol Speaker Series they help fund at Temple Beth Am.The Socols purchase 125 copies of the book to give to their guests and Books & Books acts as booksellers at the event for additional book sales. Books & Books also helps promote the series to the general public for maximum attendance.
Early this year, we partnered with local artist Amanda Keeley to bring EXILE BOOKS to Books & Books. EXILE Books is a pop-up artist’s bookstore that migrates throughout Miami, spending approximately 4-6 weeks housed in each location.
At Books & Books, EXILE occupied the west wing of the store, featuring titles by independent artist’s book publishers from across the world that focused on the general history and legacy of the medium. In partnership with Printed Matter, Inc., EXILE’S inventory represented a wide variety of artist’s books and related publications that demonstrate how these publications are conceived of as unique artworks in their own right and function as a powerful communicative force.
Once EXILE was de-installed, the room and inventory will return to their original state, and a special shelf dedicated to EXILE Books was installed to remain in its place, at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
When the French Embassy opened Albertine Books, a new reading room and bookshop in New York devoted to bringing to life French-American intellectual exchange, it simultaneously opened up a lively conversation on French books with independent bookshops throughout the nation.
Books & Books helped inspire Albertine’s French Corners program, which launched recently and offers a curated selection of French and Francophone titles at independent bookstores across the country.
Every year, for over 12 years now, Books & Books has a store, on the sand, in front of the ocean and coordinates guest chef book signings at the annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, a destination weekend event, with star-studded dinner series and wine, culinary and lifestyle seminars that feature prominent figures in the international wine, spirits and culinary industries. This event draws hundreds of thousands of people during the weekend.
We also bring books to Key West’s famed Literary Seminar every year and are partnering with the folks at the Art Studios of Key West to bring a selection of books there and host an ongoing series of author and cultural events in collaboration with them.
Our most profound community involvement came with the founding of The Miami Book Fair, over 30 years ago. Over 500 writers present over a three-day period, and over 300 vendors exhibit. All of this takes place on the campus of Miami Dade College. This one event has done as much as anything we’ve done to change the perception of Miami from a town where not much of anything serious takes place to Miami as a literary city. All the diversity and complexity in our city is on display in this one event and The Fair truly has something for every member of our community. The Fair is one very large tent under which all of Miami comes to sit and feast on literary offerings. Our community takes a great deal of pride in its success.The umbrella organization for the Book Fair, The Center for Literature & Writing at Miami Dade College, was founded as a result of discussions with Mitchell and College faculty, staff and special advisors from the book industry to advance our community’s vast and diverse literary traditions and serve as the focal point for the convergence of our hemisphere’s most talented and innovative literary and journalistic minds.
Books & Books strongly believes in heavily marketing our events and programs. We don’t just promote our own events, we also help to promote the events of many of our partnering organizations and to spread the word of their own activities. We’ve discovered you can’t go wrong by touting the horn of others, it’s kind of like a golden rule. In the end, it all works to create a vibrant, cultural community that gravitates around and benefits Books & Books in all kinds of ways.
Among the many things we do to promote everything we do, Books & Books:
We pitch the event to local print, radio and TV media. Over the years, Books & Books has been featured in local, national and international publications.
Social Media has revolutionized how we do business. With the advent of new technology, comes a wealth of changes:
Books & Books has taken its social media strategy to new levels in the past year by fully activating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
These social media platforms are being used to give fans information for nightly events, staff suggestions, new title releases and a behind the scenes look at the culture of Books & Books.
The social media strategy has also aimed at giving fans and followers a more intimate connection with authors and the store by:
Social media is also being used as a means of customer service to communicate release dates, rare first editions, answer any questions and give timing for events.
Books & Books’ social media team regularly collaborates with publishers and authors by providing them with customized content that can be easily shared on their networks to make their fans aware of in-store appearances.
A focus has also been to increase sales by promoting one-of-a-kind signed copies.
As part of its commitment to the community, Books & Books uses its vast reach to also support partner events and openings such as the Coral Gables Art Cinema and Miami Book Fair International.
Books & Books boasts over 38,000 engaged fans and followers across its accounts, resulting in hundreds of unique interactions from loyal patrons every single day.
The Books & Books team works with Amy and Rebecca of Mochee Social Media to execute their vision and ideas. They have grown their digital community over time and are now a go-to source for literary and community news in Miami.
Our style of marketing is very closely tied to our partnerships with diverse organizations and groups. It’s our partnerships that bring us extra outreach and create community-wide participation. They amplify each event.
Over the years, we’ve established countless wonderful and continually thriving partnerships with practically every civic, educational and cultural group in our community.
Our partnerships are so numerous and extensive that it would be impossible to go into depth on all of them within the limitations of this presentation, but here we’d like to mention only a few, including:
University of Miami President's Office, Center for the Humanities, Libraries & Special Collections, Creative Writing Department, Florida International University’s Creative Writing Department, the Cuban Research Institute at FIU, the School of International and Public Affairs at FIU, the O, Miami Poetry Festival, Florida Grand Opera, City Theatre, Gables Stage, Actor’s Playhouse, Miami Theater Center, Miami City Ballet, Women's Chamber of Commerce, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Gay and Lesbian Chamber of CommerceBusiness Improvement Division of Coral Gables, Art Center/South Florida, Art/Tuesdays Miami, Coral Gables Art Gallery Association, Martin Margulies Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Miami International Film Festival, Prana Yoga Studio, Slow Food Miami, Les Dames d'Escoffier Miami, Culinary Institute at Miami Dade College, Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Centro Cultural Espanol, European Chambers of Commerce, Various Consulates, Tigertail Productions, Rhythm Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Young Democrats of America, Humane Society of America, Dress for Success, The Commonwealth Institute, Dade Heritage Foundation and SAVE Dade, to name just a few.
Books & Books presents a significant number of its author events in Spanish and has developed, under the direction of Gloria Noriega, an eclectic and full selection of Spanish language titles in each of its stores.
Books & Books recently accepted an $80,000 award from the Knight Arts Challenge Grant for our ongoing live-streaming project, LIVE @ Books & Books. The additional money will allow us to continue a project which has been bringing author events online to people everywhere.
Livestream author events are live broadcasts of events at the Coral Gables Books & Books location and offsite. What people experience at the bookstore is brought directly to users’ computer screens in the comfort of their homes or on their handheld devices.
Computer and handheld users can view the livestream events by accessing www.booksandbooks.com and clicking on the banner advertisement located top-center of the screen. This will open a new window featuring all of the upcoming livestream events.
Subscribing to the Books & Books online newsletter will generate emails advertising upcoming livestream author events. Fans of Books & Books on Facebook and followers on Twitter can also learn about future livestream events.
All past livestream events are archived and displayed chronologically with the most recent events appearing first. Archived events provide the video along with the author’s personal information and book details.
Ongoing events not only provide the video but also a forum for viewers to discuss the book and content of the author’s conversation during the event.
Viewers can watch the event, call any of Books & Books stores, order the book, have it signed by the author, and shipped to them for free, courtesy of Books & Books.
They can also participate in the conversation itself, by having their questions read out loud during the live Q&A. The event is recorded and preserved for archival purposes and with the equipment currently in use, Books & Books has the ability to monitor how many are watching any given stream, as well as how many have viewed the archived videos.Imagine, if you will, authors and their publishers sharing the information with their followers, on their websites, blogs and social media platforms to create an ongoing conversation about books and ideas.
One of the strongest and most meaningful partnerships we have is with Miami Dade and Broward County Schools. Laura Deutsch heads up our Educational Sales department and is responsible for creating a myriad of opportunities for children and young adults in both public and private schools to meet with, hear from and interact with their favorite authors.
From Gulliver Academy’s librarian: “Books & Books has collaborated in bringing top-notch authors and illustrators to our school which has extended the love of reading and generated an appreciation of the craft storytelling for our students. Thank you!!”
“It was a super, positive experience! I had a few kids come up to me at the end and just hug me and tell me “THANK YOU” which is really meant for you because you make this possible for us. So receive those hugs from our kids and me and know that we had a wonderful afternoon with some really cool authors thanks to you!!!!”- Media Specialist Middle School, South Florida
Books & Books provided a book for every student at one of our school author visits through the James Patterson Grant: “They also couldn't believe someone would buy a book for every fourth grader. That really is very generous.” Reading Resource Specialist South Florida
We always offer a writing contest or perhaps a drawing contest when we send an author/illustrator to the school. We think it is important to have the students engaged prior to the event. We select a winning essay or drawing and that student gets to introduce the author/ illustrator to their fellow students. We recognize the winning student by having the author/illustrator sign a special book for them, which we provide at no cost to the student.
From Parent/Elementary School PTA point person: “I love the idea of having the kids introduce the author. All the children were quiet while she was introducing him and there were a lot of kids in that room. The children (and parents) really enjoy these visits from your authors!” School’s PTA point person
Young readers, parents and educators alike love Books & Books' Children's Room & Children’s Programming. Shelves are bursting with the latest new and classic titles as well as toys, games, stuffed animals, journals and gifts. Additional programs include weekly storytelling, kids' yoga, class field trips, children's theatre, reading parties, and in-store books fairs, which are designed to promote a love of books and reading, while helping to raise funds for the schools who participate.
We understand the amazing moment when reading clicks on inside a child’s mind. When a child has the confidence to finish a Magic Tree House book or when in reading Charlotte’s Web, the children are devastated about Charlotte’s passing. They have made a relationship with Charlotte and her magnificent lifesaving web.
It’s a rewarding moment to hear from a child or from a parent that their loved the books that are featured. We love to pick out books that teach children a lesson, to show them another life story they would not have known.Children are our future in the written word, and we have a responsibility to order books that connect children to the past and to where our future of reading and writing is going. Cultivating their imaginations keeps books stores open and creates new artists whose works will one day inspire all of us.
The Books & Books Y.A. team has grown in recent years and is working on putting the emphasis on the books and the readers. The modern Y.A. genre continues to grow past it's paranormal romance roots, and making sure each title gets out there is the goal, be it the current Sick-Lit romance wave, Sci-fi and Fantasy, or everything in-between. On Instagram, we often put the spotlight on books that have been turned into movies, but also go past that, recommending our favorite titles, sharing mini-author profiles, and in stores, we host multiple YA author events each month. We also try to include readers, with weekly online trivia contests and our new UChoose monthly event which allows readers to pick the book we highlight each month on our website. Honestly, if we had a choice, the entire store would be filled with Y.A. and middle grade titles, though we admit other genres belong here as well.
Anything can happen ...... "valet...deus" (Latin)
We generously recognize reading to be an intensely personal choice, but also know that even the most knowledgeable of readers can use a little leg up every so often; perhaps something to spice up their palettes. And because we at Books & Books know that you can tell a lot about people by what they are reading, we acknowledge and appreciate that sense of intimacy and accessibility into other people's lives.
In doing so, we carefully curate, select, edit and try to present a collection of books that reflect the tastes of our customers; and with the precision of a surgeon taking a medical history, we ask the gentle questions to match people to books…
What do you like to read, what are you especially passionate about, are you in a book club, do you leave books unread?
It’s this very genuine interest, curiosity and lyrical profundity that enable us to cater to anyone, be it the Twitter-crazed 15-year old, an irascible octogenarian, or tourists from all corners of the Universe.The true strength of the hand seller lies in the ability to tackle the many varied sections our bookstore offers, be it fiction, non-fiction, poetry, history, politics, current affairs, children's books, cookery…the list is endless…on equal footing, and for us to cherish those moments spent chatting at the counter, highlighting that willingness over and over again, to make space for everyone, and for their ideas.
Mitchell, with input from all the store managers and key booksellers, is still to this day the frontlist buyer for all of our stores.
Our selection changes over the years depending on who's doing the backlist buying. Everyone has his favorites that will always be in stock, and her own idea of which classics need to be represented. All of our buyers have had diverse tastes and they've all been right; a booklover can't go wrong stocking their favorites, because book love is particularly infectious.
We try to answer everyone's online orders with a personal message, and every customer is just as critical - from the $3.99 mass market to the 200-copy business-to-business order.
Some satisfied internet customer quotes:
Noel of Portland says: Thanks a heap! Looking at the way Amazon conducts business, I am touched by people like you, and Books and Books, who continue to give meaning to the simple pleasures of book ownership.
Carl of Long Valley, New Jersey says: Excellent packing as always (truly the best out of everyone I buy from) and great books - not crushed or dented. Truly a first class operation.
Jan of Brazil says: Great to know that I’m dealing with a real human.
Alicia of St. Augustine says: The best thing about you is that you treat all your customers like they were your biggest account!
Jud of Switzerland says: I appreciate the personal approach since it has more or less disappeared from just about everywhere else.
James of Fort Lauderdale says: thank you for the way you handled my request. It further solidified my loyalty for Books & Books. Congratulations on great customer relations!
Ofir of Israel says: Thanks again, such great service :)
Mary Ann of Las Vegas says: Thank you so much! That was very nice and absolutely the best customer service I've ever seen!! … You made my day!
He lives in Miami with his wife, Rachelle, and their twin sons, Jonah and Daniel, and their daughter, Anya.
Mitchell serves on the steering committee of the Florida Center for the Literature & Writing, Miami-Dade College's literary center, the umbrella organization for the book fair.
Mitchell is the former President of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and also serves on the Board of ABFFE, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.
In 2011, Mitchell received the National Book Foundation’s prestigious “Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community”.
The Literarian Award is presented to an individual for outstanding service to the American literary community, whose life and work exemplify the goals of the National Book Foundation to expand the audience for literature and to enhance the cultural value of literature in America. Past winners include poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, NPR’s Terry Gross and Ira Glass, and writer Dave Eggers.
This October 15, 2014, Mitchell was a guest of NPR’s Morning Edition to announce the 20 Finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards.
“We are thrilled to be working with NPR’s Morning Edition and Mitchell Kaplan, one of America’s foremost booksellers,” said Harold Augenbraum, the National Book Foundation’s Executive Director. “NPR has the country’s best on-air audience for books and Mitchell is chair of one of the nation’s best book festivals.”
This was the first time that the National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, revealed the Finalists on a national radio program.
A big leap for Mitchell came when he realized that he also had very early access to many books that could be developed for the screen. So, in a big “why not?” moment, he found the funds to start a film production company based in Miami and Los Angeles and has since optioned close to 15 books and made two films and one pilot, so far. We now have two deals set up with Britain’s Studio Canal: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and we’re in the process of setting a date for filming The Silent Wife, which will star Nicole Kidman and which has been adapted and will be directed by Billy Ray, the writer who adapted Captain Phillips.
Mitchell understands that Books & Books has achieved what it has because of a remarkable group of booksellers who have dedicated themselves to the furtherance of literary culture.
Everyday, these people go above and beyond the call of duty. They’ve discovered a career in bookselling, which is unlike any other career in the world.
As we grow, we are not a chain, who does everything exactly the same, we are a group and groups are diverse and different. Chains are inflexible and can only work in one setting. A group can work well in any setting. We connect, interact, take on different forms, and we connect with each other.
We stay connected by meeting with each other on a regular basis. We have an agenda, homework and training.
We communicate on a daily basis. Every manager calls the other stores to check in. We share resources, employees, supplies, merchandising, and specialty inventory.
Every week, we have a meeting to discuss all aspects of the week’s events and set-up, introductions, whether the event will be livestreamed, etc. We discuss the events in details and try to prepare in advance, but of course, we know things change.
Every night, our event managers send a wrap-up of the event to everyone on staff so that we all know what went right, what might have gone wrong, how many attended, how many books were sold, any feedback from authors or customers.
Every manager needs to work a night shift/day shift/mid-shift and weekend at least once a month---just to know what it’s like.Every bookseller in every store visits and works in other locations and is trained in our Gables store. Every bookseller in every store needs to have spoken to and met everyone in all the other stores.
The bookstore gets under the skin of those who begin working here. We are bold and courageous, innovative, and have found a vocation, which is unlike any other in the world. We all see ourselves as ambassadors of the brand. Wherever we go, Mitchell trusts us to bring Books & Books with us.
Books & Books thinks employee before management. We look at the particular skill sets of our employees, incorporating the talents and background of those who come to us. We take into consideration the whole being, in order to keep good people.
For example, our shipping and receiving director for many years was also a concert promoter, so we went into partnership with him to produce and present concerts.
Our director of events is also a curator, so Books & Books helped present the exhibition of works by Cuban and Cuban-American artists that she curated at Miami’s Freedom Tower.
Our buyer is also a writer, so we help promote his blog and held a launch event for him when he was published in his first anthology.
The manager of the Lincoln Road store struck up a personal friendship with the actress Geraldine Chaplin, so we called on her to convince Chaplin to introduce the anniversary screening of Doctor Zchivago and Nashville at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, right across the street from Books & Books.
Some employees go on to other jobs in our industry, but still keep in touch. Our former event coordinator went on to work for Algonquin Books. Another headed to the Boston Book Festival and is now at Harvard Book Store. An early employee is part-owner and general manager of a large, Seattle bookstore. Another has been nominated as rep of the year.
One of the most beautiful and inspiring aspects of the book business is the willingness that fellow booksellers have to share best practices.Books & Books belongs to the Independent Booksellers Consortium (IBC) and regularly meets with other booksellers to critique and grow. We recently hosted the group in Miami Beach.
“I had been working with Books & Books for about five years when a memoirist got the date of her event wrong. We didn’t learn about it until the crowd of fifty had been waiting for half an hour. When the manager made the announcement that the author’s plane was just arriving and it would be at least another forty minutes, we discovered that memoirist Roxanna Elden was in the audience (if memory serves, one of her friends called out, “Hey, do you have ‘See Me After Class’ in stock?”). Andrea Askowitz, author of “My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy” was also on hand. Roxana and Andrea entertained us with reading from their books until the confused memoirist arrived – sweaty, underdressed, and highly apologetic – and instead of selling one memoir that evening, we ended up selling three.” – Aaron Curtis, Buyer for all stores
“I had just started working at Books & Books (Coral Gables). My grip with Spanish, I am ashamed to admit, is a bit sketchy, and I try my best to accommodate all of our customers. One day a very attractive but shy and tiny middle aged woman approached me and in a soft voice told me, ‘I want to have a book, but I can't read sh-t.’ ‘Oh, I am so very sorry,’ I am sure that my face went red. She then gingerly touched my elbow and led me to another room, where she pointed to a high shelf and said to me, ‘See? I can't reach it.’ Relieved of my embarrassment, I found a footstool and fetched her the book.”—Darby Collins, Bookseller (daughter of LeRoy Collins, former Florida governor)
“Yes, with our fabulous mix of many nationalities on staff, our polyglot managers, our inimitable ability to turn language and prose upside down and inside out, and our renowned warm embrace of welcome to many a weary traveler, Books & Books is as ubiquitous to South Florida as is the warm breath of the sea breeze and turquoise ocean.”–Vivienne Evans, Miami Beach Manager and longtime employee
“After a particularly busy Friday night, a family came in with the aim to get their oldest daughter to read. "I don't like reading," she said. I recommended The Shadow of the Wind, which is one of my favorite books and explained what it was about, because I'm a bookseller, and that's my job. She bought it. A few weeks later, the girl's parents were in the store, and the mother approached me and thanked me for my recommendation, "You made my daughter a reader. You're such a dear. Thank you." It was nice to hear that. It was also nice to be called a dear.”
“Another time, a high school boy came in, looking for a specific Shakespeare play and asked me if I had read it. It was Macbeth, so I answered, "Yes, I read it in high school." I told him I enjoyed it and the reasons I enjoyed it and then told him how Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play because it's funny and bloody. "Oh, Hamlet," he says. "That's the one where he falls in love with his mother, right?"
It was difficult to ring him up with a straight face. Things people say in bookstores, I guess.” – Chris Alonso, Bookseller, Gables store
“Where else can one meet Presidents, Vice Presidents, First Ladies, Supreme Court Justices, Secretaries of State, Speakers of the House? Where it’s common to meet Celebrity Chefs, Television, Music and Cinema Stars. Hosting Award Winners and Honorees - Caldecott, Newberry, Pulitzer, Pen, National Book, Man Booker & Nobel. I'm proud of our Community Partnerships including official booksellers for Miami Book Fair International and The South Beach Wine & Food Festival. A few highlights for me include Julie Andrews asking me to hold her purse as she placed her hand on my shoulder to lead her through the shop, cracking Alan Alda up during a relaxed few moments before he took the stage, hanging with Jamie Oliver in our backroom where he drank a beer and smoked a cigarette before his big show, talking with Caroline Kennedy about her time visiting Florida when she was a child, meeting Amy and David Sedaris, both absolute riots. My fondest time was sitting with Ralph Stedman and his wife in our courtyard after his presentation and swapping funny stories… he plays the Teapot in his local pub! We all drank wine and he dropped his fingers into a glass to splash and drip across my book, his signature style, and signed it: You gotta keep me laughing! Special memories of Maya Angelou stopping by the store when in town, meeting Elie Wiesel and Salman Rushdie and of course seeing our local favorites who make our shop their hometown bookstore, Les Standiford and Dave Barry. Life is great at Books & Books!” – Linda Carver, Chief Operating Officer“Years ago, it's late, we're closing for the night. Mitchell is in the café, overseeing the installation of the new booths. I step out into the courtyard to close the front gate. Four figures step through the gateway. A hand extends. I shake it, looking up. "I hear you're the man." Paul McCartney is shaking my hand, telling me I'm the man. What man? He thinks I'm Mitchell. Paul (before Sir), his pregnant wife, and two bodyguards follow me into the East wing of the bookstore. Paul stops to browse. I round the corner with Heather into the café. I tap Mitchell on the back of the shoulder, " Paul McCartney needs your help in fiction."—George Henry Keen, Bookseller Gables store
So, at this moment, Books & Books, which started as a small, 500 square ft. store looks something like this --
There are seven corporate entities:
Books & Books, Coral Gables
Books & Books, Miami Beach
Books & Books, Bal Harbour Shops
The Café at Books & Books in Coral Gables
The Cafe at Books & Books on Lincoln Road
The Café at Books & Books at the Adrienne Arsht Center
The Books & Books Events & Marketing Group with locations in The Cayman Islands, Westhampton Beach, and Miami International Airport.
We have three joint venture entities:
The Newsstand by Books & Books
The Books & Books Publishing Services Group
The Mazur Kaplan Production Company
Books & Books stores have not only withstood the challenge from the big chains and online retailers, but have become cultural centers for each neighborhood’s readers and writers and gathering places where people come to share their love of books.
Now, over 30 years later, when you step foot into any Books & Books, you’re still walking into your neighborhood bookstore, whether you find yourself in bustling Miami International Airport or on a Caribbean island.
“Selection, service and ambiance,” says Mitchell. “This is the mantra of independent booksellers and that's what we've all been focusing on as we've met increased competition all these years. We continually have to demonstrate our value to our customers and make our stores the most inviting they can be, our staff and store policies as customer friendly as possible, and provide an offering of books and related items that is interesting and different enough to help drive business past much larger competitors.”
“Demonstrating value and finding ways to monetize our value has been what has driven our strategy for many years now. We provide our customers with a distinct experience that can't be found in the chains or online; our partnerships in the community run deep and wide. We provide books and programming for public and private schools alike, for synagogues and for churches; we allow our stores to be used for in-store book fairs and as a place for community groups to meet. We now live stream a great majority of our 400 author events per year. Gift certificates are given and we donate money back to groups who ask us to sell books for them. Each of our stores looks different from one another and we have unique restaurants/cafes in two of them, as well. The Cafes at Books & Books have become as beloved as the bookstores.”
“All of these arrangements help monetize the value we've created over the last 32 years and our plans call for us to keep an open eye and open mind to other ways we can grow.”
“In short, I believe the near future will be a bullish period for independent retailers of books; we'll have to be more creative and look for opportunities that suit who we are, but the opportunities will be there. The local first movement, the slow food movement, and, in many ways, the drive for sustainability in everything are evidence that there is also a cultural bias developing for stores that inhabit our sales channel.”
“It's also clear that market forces are aligning to create the kind of space where the interests of independent booksellers and publishers have never been more in synch. It’s the perfect time to maximize the potential for all of us, reimagining the publisher/bookseller relationship.”
“If bookstores and publishers could be viewed as partners, policies might be implemented which would go a long way to making our business more sustainable for the long term. The relationship should be collaborative and bookstores should be asked to help give advice as to how a book should be positioned within their markets.
Consignment, extended dating and other means should be employed to cut down on returns and provide more accurate print runs. Sales, not credit, should drive ordering, and sales reps should be used more and with greater impact.”
“Books & Books is now working with 9 publishing groups on a consignment basis and the results are pretty astonishing, with very large increases in sales and very little downside.”
“In closing, we consider this a golden time. Writers are writing wonderful books and there is a vibrant group of readers wanting to read them, and as baby boomers age, they will have even more free time for books.”
“I don’t know of a more dynamic period in my life as a bookseller and I remain committed to the power of the great good a physical bookstore can still achieve. Like so many other booksellers, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys around, still able to toil in this wondrous business of ours, making whatever contribution I can to the sustainability of the literary culture I so love.”
“Publishers are beginning to recognize the importance of the indie channel and new stores are opening. In 2009, there were 1401 members of the ABA and now in 2015 there are 1632, a nice increase where for years there was only decline.”“So, while the bar to survival these days has been raised to the point that a bookstore has to be viewed as a community asset, just as the library or park system is viewed, we do it, as all of us do it, because that’s what good booksellers do. We survive another day so we can put a good book into a customer’s hands and by doing so ensure that our beloved literary culture will live to see another day…”