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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

In response to threatening letter we received from Penguin Books we have replied thus..

Dear Penguin,

We were disconcerted to receive your letter and genuinely mortified to have inspired your ire. We are a tiny business formed with the intention of bucking the trend toward the disappearance of small independent booksellers from the UK's streets by putting literature into a charming context and minimising the overheads that are squeezing out other booksellers by situating the business on a 1920s original Dutch barge and becoming one of the first (soon to be many) small shops that are beginning to populate London's waterways as a response to recession and the huge growth in popularity and interest in life on the canal boats that is currently under way.

We were misinformed at our inception that our use of the iconographic 1930s Penguin book covers would be seen as free promotion of Penguin's output, particularly as we have such a large number of Penguin's books among our stock, and we were told that the avalanche of positive publicity that has surrounded our arrival on the Regents Canal 8 weeks ago would support this (see, for example, Timeout article attached).

We are huge fans of Penguin, and quoted Alan Lane in our appearance on BBC London Radio last week. We had no idea that it was even possible to copywrite a cover design or that this historical design still remained under copywrite, and failed to predict that a company of the size and reputation of Penguin would feel threatened by the arrival of so tiny and non-lucrative a small enterprise as ours. We had even planned to make contact ourselves imminently, to look into formalising a relationship with Penguin, and asking if the company would be interested in association with The London Bookbarge, as we will continue to attract positive publicity over the coming months via the Angel Canal Festival, a possible Guardian article, The Hackney Wick Festival, a documentary film following the lives of river people and closely following the inception of the Bookbarge project and an appearance on a worldwide release TV travel show in two weeks. We are in discussions to use the barge as both a music venue and organising a travelling Winter Festival featuring a circus barge, cinema barge, floating forest spectacle and projection art project that will travel the heart of London's waterways this Christmas.

We presume that such hopes of association/wholesale have now been queered by our naïveté in using your logo, but would urge you to reflect momentarily on whether your company may be turning an opportunity into a missed opportunity in taking this approach to engaging with us. We require regular, ongoing publicity for our high-risk business plan to come to full fruition (sonething which our movement from borough to borough enables us to achieve) and the David tiny independent bookshop-on-a-boat versus the Goliath corporation at least provides us with another potential press release.

We are furiously redesigning all our publicity materials as we speak and will of course comply with your request as instructed. We have no legal representation, and no way to get it on the tiny margins in our business, and no stomach for a fight, or making an enemy in this already threatened business, so offer an unreservedly apology and our assurance that we will no longer promote Penguin books or their products in any way.

A visit by a human being to our boat to have a chat may have been a more creative and potentially mutually beneficial way of saying hello, but that is why we are never going to be successful corporate lawyers or executives and 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. We hope your combative, competative approach gives you a much more rewarding working day.

Word on the Water
The London Bookbarge