University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Why are compendia so expensive?

Course-specific text compendia are expensive. But royalties and profit-margins only seem to account for a small part of the total price

It is expensive, the compendium on your shelf: Like almost everything here, more expensive than in other countries. But where the mark-up of expenses occurs is hard to discern.

There are three phases in the making and sale of a compendium: The authors write the texts, the printers copy them and put together the compendium, and the academic bookstores sell them.

Let us follow the money, by starting with the printing:

Wages, machines and supplies

Printers have to pay their employees, keep printing presses in good repair, and pay for ink, paper, covers, glue etc.

»The price we take for printing a compendium goes to paying wages, and to the maintenance of machines and supplies.« Kolbrun Gardarsdottir, daily head of the Reprocentret, the internal printer of CSS, the Faculty of Social Sciences explains.

The bookstore which sells the compendia has to pay its own employees too:

Tax and pay

»We pay the printers and then we of course have to add tax, as well as our own dividend,« explains Gry Hayhurst, store-manager at the Academic Bookstore at CSS.

So far so good.

Let us take an example from the real world: ‘Basic and Comparative Political Science, part 1’ is now being sold at the Academic bookstore for DKK 163. It is 200 double pages.


According to the price-list it costs DKK 94.50 to print a compendium of this size. That means that the printers take roughly 58 per cent of the retail-price.

Where do the remaining 42 pct. or DKK 68 go? It is divided between royalties, tax and dividends to the bookstore.

In Denmark the value-added tax called moms is 25 per cent of the price of any item sold. In this case that translates to around DKK 40. That leaves only DKK 28 as margin to the bookstore and royalty-fees to authors through the organization CopyDan.

Experts please respond!

We at the University Post find this calculation implausible. There has to be a reason why compendia are just as expensive as, or more expensive than books, and we are not certain that the printers and the bookstores are telling us the whole story.

The sources that we have spoken to, have been reticent to go into more detail.

So this is a call to all compendium experts: If anyone is interested in helping to answer this question, we would be happy to hear from them. Why are compendia so expensive?

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.