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Amazon Plunges Into Christian Publishing With Waterfall Imprint

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The online superstore Amazon got its start selling books — and it's been getting into the publishing business as well, with imprints for genres like science fiction, romance and mystery.

Until now, though, it hasn't had its fingers in one of the biggest slices of the publishing pie: Christian books. That changed this past week, with the introduction of the Waterfall Press imprint.

Win Bassett is a writer and a seminarian at the Yale Divinity School. He tells NPR's Rachel Martin that Christian publishing is a $1.4 billion market, and many major publishers have Christian imprints. "So I guess Amazon thought that it's about time they get in the game, too."

Interview Highlights

On the popularity of Christian fiction

Up until now, to find Christian fiction, you really had to go into the Christian bookstores. You're not likely to find a lot of Christian fiction in large, brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, for example. And Amazon already has a lot of Christian fiction books for sale, but now they'll be publishing their own. And like I said, it's a popular industry right now, especially among the evangelical line.

On the expansion of Christian publishing

We have a lot of independent Christian publishers publishing books, and those publishers are kind of based on certain denominations. There might be an evangelical Lutheran publisher. There might be a Southern Baptist publisher — and these are the types of books that you're going to find in an independent Christian bookstore like Lifeway. And then you also have the academic publishers getting into the game — Oxford University Press, Yale University Press are publishing monographs, but they're also publishing somewhat popular books.

On the meaning and content of Christian fiction

Christian fiction, to use an example that a lot of people might recognize, would be Flannery O'Connor, which one of the big publishing houses ... published her prayer journal, and it's done very well. So her short stories ... were all Christian fiction, they did not whisper at all. There was evidence of priests, and sacraments, and taking the Eucharist, and they were very expressly Christian. As opposed to fiction without express Christian overtones, who don't talk about church but they still might display morals or ethics that you might find along Christian thinking.

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