BISG Announces BISAC Subject Codes Update

Posted By: Brian F. O'Leary Committees,

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has published the 2022 update to its book publishing subject codes, often referred to as BISAC Subject Headings. Maintained by BISG since 1994, Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) codes have become a core element of book product metadata, enabling systems across the supply chain to recognize and merchandise print and digital books in catalogs and websites, and library and retail systems.

BISAC codes are reviewed and updated annually by members of BISG’s Subject Codes committee, led by Connie Harbison of Baker & Taylor. Suggestions from the industry, submitted by committee members as well as via the website, guided the annual update.

Though managed, debated, and codified by the BISG Subject Codes Committee, the process for preparing the 2022 update includes contributions from all segments of the book publishing supply chain. The Subject Codes Committee reviewed dozens of suggestions for edits, additions, and codes to be retired.

This year’s update added 109 codes and three cross-references to the code list. It also modified 46 “literals” – the text description of each code -- with 1 inactivation, 2 re-activations, and three cross-reference deletions across the 53 top-level sections. A new heading was also added to as a Merchandising theme. A total of 27 sections had at least one addition to the code list.

On December 13, 2022 BISG hosted a webinar covering the content of the updated code list. Everyone who registered was sent a copy of the presentation and a link to the recoridng, which is available on BISG's YouTube archive of webinar content.

Work on the current update began in October 2021. Public review and comment took place in October and early November 2022. The BISG Board of Directors approved the recommended updates on November 17, 2022.

The 2022 edition of the subject codes list is now available on the BISG website to browse for free. A downloadable file is available free to BISG members and for a fee to non-members. It can be integrated easily into title-management systems or used as an internal reference.

Around the time the 2022 code list was published, BISG also updated its web site. Executive director Brian O'Leary noted, "We have created an extensive set of redirect links from the old URLs used for BISAC subject code pages. This should ensure seamless access to BISAC content on the new site. We do recommend that frequent users update their bookmarks to the new web addresses, when time allows."

O'Leary added, "We've also made an investment in organizing related BISAC content in a more friendly fashion. The BISAC FAQ, for example, is presented in a way that allows users to quickly scan questions across multiple categories. We've also added a new category, "Choosing a BISAC code", that moves content from elsewhere on the old site into one place, answering some of the questions we are often asked by authors who call us for more information about the code list."