PHOTOS: After 30 Years, Miami Is A Literary Land

Nov 20, 2013

There was, perhaps, a notion 30 years ago that any reading done by anyone in Miami mainly consisted of a paperback on a beach, some suntan oil and very little else. But a small group of people felt differently.

So when the Miami-Dade County Public Library system wanted to celebrate its newest building, the idea of a book fair was born. "Books By The Bay," it was first called, conceived in 1984 as a few displays of books, tablecloths flapping in the breeze at Bayfront Park. 

Mitchell Kaplan's Miami Book Fair International was founded in 1984.
Credit Courtesy

But at the suggestion of Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College, the event migrated to the school's downtown-Miami Wolfson campus. Over the years, the two-day street fair blossomed. A book fair that has now set the standard for others was then still on its way to becoming an annual event.

In the 1990s, it was renamed the Miami Book Fair International. Today, it is the largest literary festival in the country. The New York Times credits the fair with "propelling the arts in Miami." The eight-day festival attracts thousands of book lovers to downtown Miami each November. And just as importantly, it beckons to the authors who come  from all around the world, and those who call South Florida home, to mingle with their fans. Listen to the story above to hear founder Mitchell Kaplan reflect on his magnum opus.