Given the outsized influence that 33-year-old Books & Books and owner Mitchell Kaplan have exerted on independent bookstores and the literary culture at large, the biggest surprise about this year’s PW Bookstore of the Year Award is that it didn’t happen earlier.
Since it’s opening in 1982 in a 500 sq. ft. space in Coral Gables, Fl., Books & Books has grown considerably. Its flagship store moved across the street into a 9,000 sq. ft. location, which is on the Register of Historic Places, added a full-service café, and now hosts more than 60 events a month. In 1989, Kaplan added a second store on Lincoln Road in South Beach. After the opening of a third store in 2005 in the Bal Harbor Shops, an upscale mall that boasts the highest dollar per sq. ft. ratio in the world, Books & Books began leveraging its brand.
In 2007, it opened a store in the Cayman Islands. Three years later it opened an affiliate store in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, with Jack McKeown and Denise Berthiaume. Books & Books also partners on stores in Miami International airport, at the Southeast Financial Center in downtown Miami, and at the Coral Gables Museum.
In addition, the bookstore developed a publishing arm five years ago and has released close to a dozen titles, including two in a joint venture with Rizzoli Publishing. Kaplan also leveraged the store’s literary authority by forming the Mazur Kaplan Company, co-owned with long-time producer Paula Mazur. The company first made headlines in 2008 when it optioned film rights to Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.
Books & Books head Kaplan also helped found the Miami Book Fair more than 30 years ago, and he 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. He is a former president of the American Booksellers Association and serves on the board of the American Booksellers for Free Expression. In 2011, Kaplan received the National Book Foundation’s “Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.”
PW Sales Rep of the year Jennifer Sheridan with HarperCollins says that she has been a bookseller for her entire career: 15 years as an independent bookseller and nine years and counting as a field sales rep. She not only sells frontlist and backlist children’s titles to bookstores, wholesalers, and distributors, but also serves as a liaison between the New York office and field and telesales reps around the country.
A number of booksellers and children's authors nominated Sheridan. As events coordinator Drew Sieplinga of Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers in Minneapolis notes, “Sometimes it feels like Jenny knows what we need or want before we do. I always know that I can trust Jenny when she tells me that we have to order a book for our store She has taken the time to get to know our store’s and customers’ needs. She’s fantastic.”
Look for in-depth interviews with the 2015 award-winners in the May 4 pre-BEA issue of Publishers Weekly magazine.