Updated BISAC Subject Headings Released
Sunday, December 15, 2019
Posted by: Brian O'Leary
The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has published the 2019 update to its book publishing subject codes, often referred to as BISAC Subject Headings.
The codes are reviewed and updated annually by members of BISG’s Subject Codes committee, led by Connie Harbison of Baker & Taylor. This year’s updates added, modified, or inactivated codes in 25 of 53 top-level sections. A total of 18 sections had at least one addition to the code list. In all, the 2019 edition includes 46 new headings, 94 changes to coded headings (new literals), and 29 inactivations.
In preparing the 2019 update, the committee undertook a detailed review of the Computers section, where revisions represented 80% of the changes to literals and 97% of inactivations for the update. As well, the committee recommended 16 changes in Social Science and six changes in the Fiction categories.
As has been the case with previous updates, the recommendations include changes made a result of requests and suggestions received from members of the publishing community throughout the past year. Anyone interested in making a suggestion to the code list can do so using a contact form whose link appears on the BISG web site. Examples of books that would benefit from a change or a new code are needed as part of each request. BISG membership is not required to submit a request.
A summary of the changes made with this update is available as part of the download package. The Subject Codes committee also maintains a summary of inactivated codes that should not be applied to any new titles. This summary includes recommended replacement codes and is available on the BISG web site.
Work on the current update began in October 2018. Public review and comment took place in October and early November 2019. The BISG Board of Directors approved the recommended updates on November 18. The full update was prepared and proofread for release on December 12.
The subject codes can be downloaded now from the BISG web site. Members can log into a BISG account to download the updated list at no charge. Non-members can purchase access on a sliding scale related to a firm’s annual publishing revenues.
A webinar explaining subject codes, their uses, and changes made for the 2019 update was delivered on November 19. Offered without charge to both members and non-members, an archived version of the webinar can be viewed on the BISG web site.
Since 1995, BISAC subject codes have helped publishers, distributors and wholesalers, retailers and industry data providers categorize titles in ways that improve readers' ability to find the books they want to read. Widely used in North America and in other markets, BISAC subject codes are also mapped to Thema, an international classification scheme launched in 2013. An update to the BISAC-to-Thema map will be released in mid-2020, after a new version of Thema is approved by an international steering committee at the next London Book Fair in March 2020.