Focus on: Thema

What is Thema, especially in relation to the BIC Standard Subject Categories scheme?

Thema is a multilingual subject category scheme designed for organisations in all sectors of the global book publishing business. It enhances merchandising, discoverability and potential sales of books by simplifying the communication of accurate and detailed subject information across international markets.

At the end of February 2024, Thema will replace the outdated BIC Standard Subject Categories scheme (BSSC). At that point, the following will happen:

  • Removal of the BSSC scheme online code browser at and all related documentation from the BIC website
  • Cessation of BIC support with regards to any queries pertaining to the BSSC scheme
  • Deprecation of BIC codes within ONIX
  • Appropriate adjustments made to the BIC Metadata Excellence Accreditation Award with regards to BSSC codes: Thema has already been made mandatory at all levels of award for the revised scheme (starting July 2022)

Full details on this change can be found in our February 2023 press release.

Who manages Thema and what are the key details?

Thema is developed and managed by EDItEUR (the organisation that also develops ONIX), with guidance from an international committee of representatives from more than 15 countries including the USA, UK, Canada and many European countries. Groups in Japan, China, Korea, Australia and Latin America are also involved.

BIC runs the UK Thema National Group, which feeds directly into the International Thema Steering Committee.

The Thema scheme is a set of around 3000 subject categories, used to describe what a book is about. The categories are arranged in a hierarchy, with 20 top-level broad groups, each subdivided into many sub-categories. Each category has an alphanumeric code and a descriptive heading and some categories have associated usage notes. Each book can be assigned one or more codes as required.

Thema subject coding can be enriched by adding qualifiers, to refine the meaning of the main subject headings. Qualifiers cover geographical areas, historical periods, languages (that is, the language that a book is about, not written in), educational purpose, artistic styles, and special interests (eg seasonal interest, or suitable ages for children’s books).

For further and more detailed information, please refer to the EDItEUR website.

How can I find out more about Thema?

In April 2022, we held a BIC Brunch webinar, featuring a guided tour of what’s new in version 1.5, now available to watch on the BIC YouTube channel.

Our next Thema training course is coming up on 6th July, find out more and book a place in our events section.


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