January 17, 2022

Metadata: Pilot Draft of Thema Global Subject Codes Published

From the Book Industry Study Group:

The acting Board of Directors for Thema (a Board created to support the Thema Global Subject Scheme standard) announced at the London Book Fair today that a pilot draft of the Thema standard has been published. The Thema standard is intended to provide a single unified scheme for the categorization of book content for the global book trade.

The Thema standard has been developed over the last two years with the active participation of working groups representing thirteen countries in Europe and North America, as well as a Pan-Arab Group, under the direction of Thema Technical Committee chair Howard Willows (Senior Manager, Data Development, at Nielsen Book). By combining a robust selection of shared subject categories with an expansive list of subject qualifiers which can contain national variants and extensions, Thema provides a structure that has global application while meeting local needs. The hope is that additional national groups from countries around the world will review, comment on, and ultimately adopt the Thema standard. Interested communities are urged to treat this initial draft as a beta version.


Initially designed primarily to support international trading, and not immediately intended to replace market-specific subject codes, such as BIC, BISAC, or CLIL, Thema will greatly reduce the need to map from one scheme to another, and lays the foundation for a future reality in which one classification system will be adopted worldwide.

In addition to the announcement of the publication of the Pilot Draft of the standard, the Thema Board also announced a “sunrise date” of December 31, 2013 for Thema implementation. This is the earliest date by which publishers and others upstream in the supply chain might be expected to include Thema codes in their metadata, and the earliest date by which retailers and others downstream should be expected to accept Thema codes.


The standard grew out of iBIC, a fledgling subject code project based on version 2.1 of the BIC Subject Category scheme. BIC and Nielsen Book, who jointly owned the intellectual property for iBIC, graciously donated it to the Thema Board of Directors for the creation of the Thema standard.

Look for a Copy of the Pilot Draft to Be Available on the PanThema Website By April 20, 2013.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.