Resources to help with international shipping

Posted By: Brian F. O'Leary Committees,

At its August 2023 meeting, BISG heard about marketplace confusion over the need to provide commodity codes as part of metadata when shipping books outside the U.S. market. Although best practice has not changed, some distributors have found their shipments are being delayed or refused because required declarations are incomplete or inconsistent. The committee asked BISG to publish a summary of available resources while it assesses the problem.

Earlier this year, BISG hosted representatives from EDItEUR to discuss "Internationalizing Your Metadata." The session covered more than commodity codes, and it is a useful primer on how to use metadata to support distribution and sales of books outside a home market.

EDItEUR has written an application note on "Commodity codes, country of origin, and international trade", covering much of the information that was discussed during the webinar presented earlier this year. It's a useful text reference for publishers and distributors working to navigate the international landscape.

Within ONIX, code list 9 covers a range of product classification types, including those used globally and in specific countries. Clicking on the asterisk to the right of each of the items in the code list brings up brief explanatory notes for the classification type.

GS1 maintains a comprehensive guide to Global Shipment Identification Numbers, or GSINs. The information provided there is not specific to books, but it can be useful as a contextual document.

Companies that work with book publishers to manage both inbound and outbound international freight can be a useful resource for publishers. The Woodland Group, a BISG member company, maintains a range of resources that both customers and interested parties can consult. A recent example is their "Guide to Tariff Classification and Duty Minimisation in the UK", published in June. The company also maintains a glossary as part of its resources hub. Other companies offer similar information that can be found via online search, particularly around "commodity codes".

Through its metadata committee, BISG will be assessing current issues and generating additional information where appropriate. If you're interested in contributing a question, comment, or concern, you can write to us at

BISG members are also welcome to attend a metadata committee meeting. If you're not already registered with the committee, contact us and we'll add you. You can also register directly for a committee via the member portal, if you're familiar with its operation. You'll need to be logged in to make that work.