Happy Anniversary! 20 Years of SAP PRESS America

May I invite you to join me on a journey back through time?


The year is 2001. “mySAP.com” is the marketing umbrella for SAP’s growing suite of ERP products. SAP’s revenue is around €4 bn annually, and things are going well, particularly in the U.S. A young guy named Shai Agassi just made a splash by selling his company to SAP and joining the board. He set up shop not in sleepy old Walldorf, but in booming Palo Alto, CA. SAP’s focus is now moving away from the old world and onto new and exciting markets.


Around the same time, in Bonn, Germany, a former electronics sales associate turned IT book sales rep turned publishing entrepreneur received a phone call from SAP’s headquarters with an urgent message: “I strongly advise you to figure out a way to bring SAP PRESS to the U.S.”


The publishing company this entrepreneur had founded just two years earlier with three other guys was called Galileo Press. Since 1999, Galileo had been publishing books on Adobe products (Flash! Dreamweaver!), programming (PHP! JavaScript! VoiceXML!), business topics (E-Business! CRM!), and SAP. In fact, this publishing startup had managed to convince SAP that the German market needed books on SAP’s software: the result was the imprint SAP PRESS. And while the early years of Galileo’s programming and Adobe publications included a few real bestsellers, SAP PRESS had the most consistent success of Galileo’s imprints. But the deeper message of the call from SAP was clear: If we didn't make it to the U.S. in time, SAP PRESS would be history, and all the work of the early years would be in vain.


Our boss set out to get the job done! He took a course on business English, booked a flight to Boston, and met with the people our SAP contact recommended we cooperate with: the good folks at Wellesley Information Services (WIS). A deal was brokered between the two parties, in which Galileo would produce the English SAP PRESS books, and WIS would market and distribute them to their world-wide audiences. To this end, Galileo Press Inc. (U.S.) was incorporated on April 25, 2002.


SAP PRESS America’s first book published just a few months later: Thomas Schneider’s SAP Performance Optimization Guide, a German translation.


Our books were met by an audience that was starved for technical information on SAP products, and our 2002 production of just four books turned out to be a huge success. So, we doubled down the next year and churned out ten, again, exclusively on technology subjects.


2004 marked our first milestone: not only did we venture into the realm of application-centric books, we also published our first original English-language title, Chris Whealy’s Web Dynpro for Java. This was a big deal because we didn’t have native English speakers on our editorial team at the time. Picking up the phone and discussing a (very technical) manuscript in a language you don’t really master was a challenge none of us had seen coming when applying for the job. And yet, here we were.


The lack of native English on the team and the relative difficulty of translating application-focused SAP books ultimately compelled us to fill the shell of Galileo Press Inc. with some life. In 2005, we were joined by our first U.S.-based editor and one year later we opened our first office in three tiny rooms in Dedham, MA.


Within two years, the team grew to three acquisition editors, one development editor, and two production editors. The team worked on the application side of SAP from the U.S. office (now in Braintree, MA); two editors in Germany took care of the needs of the technology list. We peaked in 2009 with 67 book publications; coincidentally, it was the same time the financial crisis reached its height.


The shock of the crisis hit SAP, and it hit SAP PRESS with the same vigor as everyone else. SAP projects got halted around the world; training budgets got slashed; books were on no-one’s mind—except ours. Publishing a book is a 12-month process, and our business can’t be ramped up or ramped down by a click of a button. Contracts are in place, as are publishing strategies. This is where we needed a change.


The management of Galileo Press wanted a change in leadership and their acquisitions strategy, so they decided to send help. Therefore, I packed my bags and settled in Boston for what was supposed to be a one-year mission. The goals: trimming the output, building a smaller acquisitions team, and eventually establishing an English technology list alongside our business books.


When my assignment was over, I was happy to report back that all goals had been accomplished: Our output had shrunk to about 35 books per year, we now had one editor working the business list, and another on the technology list. In addition, sales had stabilized. However, going home was no longer an option that fit the circumstances of my personal life. So, I decided to stay!


With a renewed team and a stronger focus on principles that had made Galileo Press successful in Germany, the next big project started to take shape in our minds. Having exclusively been an editorial and production team while our partner managed marketing and sales of our books, we wanted more control of how our products were sold. So, after two years of preparation, we split from our distribution partner in 2014, launched our own version of sap-press.com, hired marketing and customer service teams, and have since been at it alone.


The same year, to accommodate the growing team, we moved to our current offices in the City of Presidents, Quincy, MA. Our focus and mid-term goal was clear: transition SAP PRESS from a traditional book publisher to a provider of subscription services that thrives in a new era of the publishing industry. To this end, we built and maintained a direct-to-consumer customer base, expanded our marketing skillset, and established a new, more agile electronic product format (E-Bites).


Halfway to the launch of our subscription product, we rebranded as Rheinwerk Publishing Inc. to avoid trademark conflicts. In 2017, with the legal issues out of the way and the communication hurdles around rebranding behind us, we launched our online subscription product. Two years later we released our first mobile app for offline usage. Within just three years, we grew our subscription (aka cloud) revenue to a whopping 25% share of total revenue, a pace even a certain software giant would’ve been happy with in its early cloud days.


That’s it! That’s how SAP PRESS International became what it is today. As someone who has been around for the entire history of the imprint, I’m proud of what we have accomplished in the last 20 years. We could not have done it without the passion and dedication that our team members are bringing to work every day: five of our colleagues have been with the company for more than eight years; another seven have been here for more than four.


All of us at Rheinwerk are looking forward to taking our next step. Where will it lead us? It’s going to be a new chapter in our history, and we’re excited to share it with you soon. To find out, watch this space and your email inbox to see the announcement.

Florian Zimniak
by Florian Zimniak

Florian Zimniak is the managing director of Rheinwerk Publishing. He first started working for SAP PRESS in 2002 as an editor in the German Rheinwerk offices. Since 2010, he has been in charge of Rheinwerk’s U.S. operations, helping transform Rheinwerk Publishing from a mainly editorial group to the full-service publisher it is today. When he doesn’t think about books, Florian staunchly supports the Boston Red Sox and Bayern Munich.