(22 Dec 2020) The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has published the 2020 update to its book publishing subject codes, often referred to as BISAC Subject Headings.
Maintained by BISG since 1995, 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, and based on suggestions from the industry submitted via the BISG.org website.
Though managed, debated, and codified by the BISG Subject Codes Committee, the process for preparing the 2020 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 155 codes and modified 123 literals, with two inactivations across more than half of the 54 top-level sections. A total of 23 sections had at least one addition to the code list.
Reviewing the committee’s work, Connie Harbison said, “The 2020 edition, as each of the code lists that preceded it, has been a collaborative effort, and each has been an exercise in documenting the evolution of the industry, from a technical perspective and also in terms of consumer demand for books.”
Highlights of the 2020 BISAC Subject Headings list include the addition of a FICTION / World Literature tree and extensive revisions to the SPORTS & RECREATION section, in order to organize that section better. Language in a number of literals (the human-friendly descriptor that correlates with each code) have been updated to reflect matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion that came to the fore this year.
BISG Executive Director Brian O’Leary noted, “The BISAC Subject Codes are all about categorizing books to promote discovery and purchase. The annual updates are a reflection of society, not a driver of it.” In recognition of the committee and its chairperson, he added, “Connie and the Subject Codes Committee are the unsung heroes behind this enormous effort. While some of this work is straightforward, much of it requires a great depth of insight and sensitivity. And though most consumers will never know what drives where books are shelved or which titles are returned in online searches, BISACs are essential to our business.”
Work on the current update began in October 2019. Public review and comment took place In October and early November 2020. The BISG Board of Directors approved the recommended updates on December 10, 2020.
The 2020 edition of the subject codes list is now available on the BISG website (www.bisg.org). The data list, available free to BISG members and for a fee to non-members, can be integrated easily into title-management systems or used as an internal reference.
The original press release is here.