Subject Codes Committee

A wall of bookshelves in a book store. The shelves are lines with colorful books, they all have visible subject codes taped to the spines.

About the Subject Codes Committee

Almost ubiquitous in the North American book industry — including most major publishers, retailers and distributors — BISAC Subject headings set the standards for book coding. The Subject Codes Committee maintains the BISAC Subject Headings, Merchandising Themes and Regional Themes, while also providing guidance on the implementation and use of the lists by publishers, retailers and other parties.

Headshot of Connie Harbison, Subject Codes committee chair
Committee Chair:

Connie Harbison, Baker & Taylor

Join this committee        Committee charter       Download the codes

Committee Objectives

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

What we do

The Committee works to keep the BISAC Subject List current, ensuring that it continues to meet the needs of the industry.


Headshot of Clark Fife, Subject Codes Committee Member and Metadata Committee Member“Identifying, proposing, and seeing the successful adoption of a BISAC subject category or an element of metadata not previously available helps me, my organization, and other industry players better describe their books to the whole supply chain and to readers. And I also get a thrill from adding a BISAC that I shepherded through the committee!”

Clark Fife
Subject Codes committee member and Metadata Committee member

When We Meet

Icon of a calendar with rounded corners. Six boxes in two rows, with the lower middle one filled in. Blue-green gradient lineart.

The 3rd Thursday of every other month at 9:30am EST.

View all Subject Code Committee events

What We Produce

In addition to maintaining and updating the most current list of BISAC codes, we also create and maintain BISAC Regional Themes, Merchandising Themes and BISAC to Thema mapping.

Check out our work

Committee Working Group

This committee consists of a Thema working group which meets periodically to:

  • Monitor standards and update the mapping as new releases are issued
  • Suggest updates to Thema that reflect needs specific to the U.S. market
  • Provide instructions on how the BISAC-to-Thema mapping should be used

Committee FAQ

BISAC is a standard used throughout the book industry supply chain to categorize books based on topical content. The BISAC Subject Headings List, also known as the BISAC Subject Codes List, is used to standardize the electronic transfer of subject information between trading partners. BISAC Subject Headings can determine where books are shelved in a brick and mortar store or the genre(s) under which they can be searched for in an internal database.

These describe the topical content of a book and don’t cover non-content-oriented ways of grouping titles (such as "gift books"). Other fields in metadata communications formats (language, audience, age range, grade range, format / binding / packaging, supplementary format / binding / packaging, merchandising themes) are used to describe a book in ways not covered by the Subject Headings list. Since Merchandising Themes are closely related to Subject Headings, the Themes and codes used in this field are included at the end of the Subject Headings package (along with usage instructions).

Thema is the unified international standard for subject classification, intended to limit the need to map to multiple subject category schemes when buying and selling books across multiple geographic territories.

See More FAQ

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View from above of a desk with an open laptop, books lined up neatly, a pair of glasses, a camera, and apple, and a small pottted plant. The laptop is cropped at the keyboard, and most of the space is empty desk.