Word on the Water

London, England

Word on the Water: a floating bookstore in London.

What is Word on the Water?

Word on the Water is a floating bookstore tucked away on Regent’s Canal near King’s Cross. Contained within a 1920s Dutch canal boat named Dianti, this bookstore is one of London’s literary highlights and offers more than just a typical book-buying experience. Inside, the barge unfolds into a surprisingly spacious haven brimming with a diverse collection of novels, poetry, and art.

Word on the Water was created in 2011 when founders Paddy Screech and Jonathan Privett, inspired by their shared love for literature, embarked on a venture that would redefine the bookstore experience in London. Their commitment to fostering a love for books and supporting emerging authors has earned Word on the Water a special place in the hearts of Londoners.

Word on the Water 7
- Geoff Henson

The History of Word on the Water

The origin story of Word on the Water is as captivating as the books it houses. In 2011, the concept took shape when Jon and Paddy found themselves moored alongside each other on their houseboats. Their vision crystallised when they sought to purchase the Dianti, with the owner, Stephane, becoming their partner in the endeavour.

Initially, the bookstore faced challenges due to Canal & River Trust regulations, which required the barge to constantly change locations. This nomadic existence proved detrimental to the business's survival, with Privett recalling the difficulty of maintaining a consistent customer base amidst the constant relocation.

Word on the Water 5
- Ungry Young Man

After years of uncertainty, financial strain, and setbacks, including a near-sinking experience, Word on the Water finally secured a permanent mooring in King's Cross, in 2015. This marked a turning point, allowing the bookstore to flourish and expand its offerings without the burden of constant relocation.

In 2022, the barge underwent significant renovations, including raising the roof and enhancing its metalwork, signalling a commitment to growth and adaptation. A documentary chronicling this transformative process captured the essence of Word on the Water's resilience and evolution.

Tragically, the journey was marred by loss when Privett passed away from cancer in September 2023. Despite the heartbreak, surviving founders Paddy and Stephane, along with Jon's daughter, Megan, continue to uphold the bookstore's legacy.

Books on the Barge

Stepping onto the charmingly refurbished 1920s barge, Word on the Water visitors will find shelves spilling over with a diverse selection of both new and used books spanning classic and contemporary fiction, as well as an extensive selection of children's literature. From poetry to prose, and fiction to nonfiction, the bookstore is a haven for book enthusiasts of all kinds.

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- David Skinner

Perusing the shelves is an immersive experience, and there are even cosy corners to settle down in and get stuck into the first couple of chapters. Or take a moment to read the blurbs and try to narrow down your treasures. But, if you’re as indecisive as us you’ll probably want to pick up one of their Word on the Water signature tote bags, to carry all the books you were unable to choose between, home in.

Beyond Just ‘Words’ on the Water

Aboard Word on the Water it's clear to see that books are just the beginning. The barge also comes alive with eye-opening discussions on feminism, technology, politics, and art. Furthermore, the barge's roof transforms into a stage, equipped with a solar sound system, for live music performances, and the occasional poetry slam.

Word on the Water
- David Skinner

Even the seasons bring their own magic to Word on the Water. Picture-perfect summer evenings offer the ideal backdrop for leisurely browsing, while winter casts a cosy spell, inviting visitors to curl up with a book by the stove. Adjacent to the busy Coal Drops Yard, this floating bookstore seamlessly blends the joys of literature with the allure of nearby shops and eateries.

But Word on the Water isn't just about selling books; it's about creating an immersive experience for its guests. Whether you're perusing the eclectic selection displayed outside or snuggled up indoors, every nook and cranny of the barge thoughtfully caters to enhancing your visit.

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- Matt Brown

Our Thoughts…

Word on the Water embodies the spirit of community and creativity, fostering connections between book lovers and artists while celebrating the rich tapestry of London’s literary landscape.

Its enduring presence on Regent’s Canal stands as a testament to the power of passion and perseverance in bringing dreams to fruition. So, if you’re ever in London, don’t miss the chance to explore this one-of-a-kind floating bookstore.

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What you need to know

Word on the Water
York Way, Granary Square, London N1C 4AA
51.536480, -0.124270
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