Subject Codes Committee Charter (2022)

How we provide value to the industry

Current State

The BISAC Subject List was developed to help authors, publishers, distributors, retailers, and libraries categorize books in a more consistent manner. The current list covers 54 categories and provides over 5,000 codes to categorize a given title. The list is used in the United States and Canada as the default resource for defining the content of a book.

Internationally, use of Thema, which is currently available in more than 15 languages, continues to grow. Since 2013, the subject codes committee has mapped all BISAC updates to the current version of Thema. The release of the 2021 BISG update will require a revised BISAC-to-Thema map.


The Committee works to keep the BISAC Subject List current, ensuring that it continues to meet the needs of the industry. Its annual and ongoing objectives are to:

  • Review sections (categories) on a cyclical basis, adding or deleting codes as needed, and updating descriptions when warranted.
  • Solicit and review requests for updates, which are assessed as they are received from the publishing community and members of the committee.

Stakeholder Impact/Benefits

Within the North American book industry, many businesses currently use the headings to aid in search, discovery, and sales. Some libraries are also utilizing the BISAC Subjects to facilitate the browsing experience for patrons. Typically, supply-chain participants adopt the annual updates quickly (within months) so that they can employ the most up-to- date categories and descriptions.


In 2022, the Committee plans to:

  • Meet on a monthly schedule to review a planned set of subject categories that include ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES, LITERARY CRITICISM and LITERARY COLLECTIONS, POETRY (recently updated) and DRAMA (not recently updated, but goes along with POETRY), as well as COMIC & GRAPHIC NOVELS, RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY and LAW, PERFORMING ARTS, specifically looking at the place of Dance.
  • For the 2022 Edition, the committee will research the kinds of books that are ending up in the General headings to see if there are gaps in any of the major sections.
  • Via the web form and committee members, solicit suggestions from the broader community and consider suggestions to make specific parts of the Subject List more useful to the community.
  • Finalize changes by September 2022 and bring the proposed update to the industry for comment, as well as to the BISG board for review and approval.
  • Publish the updated list in November 2022, accompanied by an online webinar describing the updates.
  • Through its Thema working group, map 2021 BISAC codes to the current version of Thema.


A compelling proposal made to the committee prior to the close of the 2022 Edition in August 2022 may delay the edition until we can accommodate the proposal. A delay can occur if BISG membership or the BISG Board voices objection to one or more parts of the new edition, prompting modifications and a need to recirculate the draft.