Battle of the Bookshops: Word on the Water

14th Sep 2011


How exciting! A beautiful independent bookshop carries an aura of romance that can be beaten by few things… and narrowboats are one of them. (Others include rarely used wine cellars, abandoned houses and castles in Transylvania, but I’ll save those for another time).

The guys behind Word on the Water, a floating bookshop that sails around London’s canals, are clearly big on romance. Not only are they the proud owners of this stunning 1920s art deco barge, but they’ve filled it with books, and they want us all to come aboard!

Their blog describes how they are ‘forced to make do with waking up at 10am, watching the moorhen chicks and swans over coffee in the morning, then discussing literature and promoting reading on a boat all day, making just enough cash for a modest meal out for supper.’ Sounds like heaven to me!

The joke about their trade being buoyant has long since been cracked, so I won’t repeat it here, but being mobile is certainly one way of getting around the problem that many independent bookshops suffer from – that of being left behind the fast moving trends, in a dusty, forgotten corner of town.

Boasting a carefully selected range of second hand books, at very affordable prices, sold to you by the very charming captain of the ship, the boat is a must-visit.

Better still, this Christmas they’re planning to partake in a magical travelling Winter Festival featuring a circus barge, cinema barge, floating forest spectacle and projection art project, all of which will travel through the heart of London’s waterways.

To find out where they’re headed, check for updates on Twitter. Though they are able to chase business more than most, Word on the Water are still relying on people like us to spread the word and help the business stay afloat.

So search for your sea legs, grab your bookbags and barge aboard this magnificent book-boat to support a very worthy cause indeed!

P.S. There is at least one other book-boat touring the UK’s canal network, and I’m sure the recession-beating brainwave will catch on. Click here to read an article about Sarah Henshaw’s Book Barge.

Clare Hammond