, January 27, 2023

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Word on the water: a big community in a tiny place

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Word on the water: a big community in a tiny place

Also named "The London bookbarge", this narrowboat is probably the most atypical bookshop in the capital.

“Word on the Water” is a big community of book lovers gathering in King’s Cross, on a tiny and cosy narrowboat, in Granary Square. Dedicated to culture, this 100 years-old Dutch barge is one amongst dozens of different types moored on the riverbank of Regent’s Canal, connecting the beautiful and modern business district to Camden lock and its renown market.

From Austen to Orwell

London is known to be multicultural, which makes it richer. Furthermore, this unique bookshop is one of the multiple atypical places where culture takes its roots in the capital. With its hundreds of books, there is as much choice for passionate readers inside the little boat as outside. The collection includes classics such as “1984” by George Orwell, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and “Pride and Prejudices” by Jane Austen, but also goes from mangas and children’s books, to art and photography ones. both second-hand and new books are mixed up in a beautiful and soothing disorder, which is very uncommon for a bookstore.

Discover a marvellous place

For those who want to take some time, there are some comfortable sofas inside to sit down for a few minutes and read the 4th cover page before deciding to buy a book. “Word on the water” barge in King’s Cross, the most famous atypical bookstore of London, is a friendly place where the “salesman” makes jokes to children and where everyone seems to be having a good time. It truly is a good place to hang out with friends or family, marvel at the postcard landscape, or discovers the richness of British culture.

It’s the best bookstore in the world!

To James Bentley, 67 years old, who has been working at this bookshop for about 6 years, it is all about passion. “It’s the best bookstore in the world! The runner is too modest to admit it, but I do”, ironizes the man while tidying up the books as the London rain starts to fall on the beautiful covers. The weather is something they must manage within this town, where it’s raining more than a hundred days a year. “It’s difficult when there’s a heavy rain but, for now, we just have to make a room [for the most exposed books]”, says the man who also lives on a boat. “This is the job, but we get used to it being okay”.

Online community

This perfect Irishman cliché describes the bookshop as an “extraordinary boat”. And the online community, particularly on social media, seems to share his opinion. They are more than 5 million to be following the “London Bookbarge” on Twitter, 18 million on Instagram, and 25 million on Facebook. Moreover, they have a website where it’s possible to order the books you want whether you live in the UK or not. The book barge also proposes boxes (and vouchers) to the customers.

Between 2010 and 2015, the UK was the first European country in terms of book publishing. The land of Shakespeare’s language has a strong readers community, but the unique bookshop can benefit from the passage of the tourists in the capital.

©James Bentley

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