MIAMI (CBS4) – The National Book Foundation will bestow the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community on a South Florida native.

Mitchell Kaplan, 56, has been working with books for more than half his life.  He was just 24 years old when he opened his first Books & Books bookstore in Coral Gables.

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He then went on to help Dr. Eduardo Padron of Miami-Dade College start a book fair in Miami. The Miami Book Fair International, now in its 28th year, is the largest community book festival in the country.

Kaplan says his love affair with books began in public school when he was assigned the task of working in the library.  He graduated from Central High and first was an English teacher.

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Kaplan says he believes Miami’s image can be tied directly to the book fair.  The fair brought hundreds of writers to the Magic City and they then returned to their hometown and wrote about Miami, creating a buzz.  He says besides his children, the book fair is his greatest accomplishment.

Kaplan says online bookstores and e-books have made business challenging, but still believes that there is a need for great community book stores.

In addition, Kaplan now has his own publishing company, and a production company.  He has purchased the option rights to a couple of books and perhaps one day in the future, he will actually get an Academy Award.  The book “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” will be his first movie and director Kenneth Branagh has already signed on.

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“I guess I have this desire to stay relevant to do cool and interesting things,” Kaplan said.  “Keeps me going.”