London’s only floating bookstore takes readers on quite the “quirky” journey, says co-owner Paddy, ‘The Doctor.’ Word on the Water used to stop at four different places, traveling between Camden Lock, Angel, Hackney and Paddington. Now, after almost having to close, the store is permanently moored in Granary Square near King’s Cross Station. Paddy explains why he started the business along with co-owners John Privett and ‘The Captain,’ “What we wanted was to have art and music and culture emitting from this boat all the time. In the summer when we’ve got acoustic musicians on the roof, it’s just lovely, and it even works in the rain!”
Open nine months out of the year, the store carefully curates its stock, not to cater to its customers, who range from tourists straying a bit from the “tube” to London hipsters, but to give them something they didn’t necessarily know they wanted. Plutarch is situated next to a Pilates how-to guide and and other books in a way that makes one discover books they didn’t know existed. There are no digital “customers who bought this also bought” guides here and no “if you like this, try this” suggestions.
But Word on the Water isn’t the only business on the waterways of London. All told, there are 2,300 floating businesses including cheese, hat, biscuit, sandwich and arts and crafts shops, as well as a cinema and a bicycle business or two. Paddy thinks Londoners are retreating to the canals in order to escape from the harried nature of the rest of London. Being on the canal also means that businesses like Paddy’s can offer things other businesses can’t, like musicians on the roof or poetry slams, which aren’t allowed on the street.