BISAC Classification Schemes

BISAC Classification Schemes come in three forms: 

These codes are widely used in the North American Book Trade.

BISAC Subject Codes

BISAC Subject Codes are the North American standard that publishers use to identify to retailers into which section of their stores a book might be placed.  The Best Practice for ONIX is to list one "main" subject, and as many others can as needed to supplement.  For example a book of photographs of then and now battle sites might be considered primarily a book of History, Photography or possibly even Travel depending on the book's slant.  The publisher provides what the Main one is, and supplements it appropriately. 

A BISAC "Main" subject listed in an ONIX file should be as specific as possible – it should be very exceptional to choose a "General" subject as they provide the least information to retailers.

BISAC Subjects are interesting because they change each year – the idea is that they continually mirror the needs of retailers and that the list remains manageable with around 3,000 entries. They should always represent what is actually published at any time and a rule of thumb is that there must be at least 100 active titles in the North American market to warrant a BISAC Subject.  Publishers are expected to update their lists yearly to reflect those changes but this is not usually a difficult problem as change is slow. 

There is a list of specifically Canadian BISAC Subjects listed below, but all BISAC subjects can be supplemented by using BISAC Regional Themes to a geographical element to any book if it's appropriate. BISAC Subjects are continually being refined and if you have suggestions please forward them to

See the full list here, but these are the specifically "Canadian" BISAC subject codes:


ART015040ART / Canadian
CKB091000COOKING / Regional & Ethnic / Canadian
DRA013000DRAMA / Canadian
FIC089000FICTION / World Literature / Canada / General
FIC090000FICTION / World Literature / Canada / Colonial & 19th Century
FIC090020FICTION / World Literature / Canada / 20th Century
FIC090030FICTION / World Literature / Canada / 21st Century
GAR019010GARDENING / Regional / Canada
HIS006000HISTORY / Canada / General
HIS006010HISTORY / Canada / Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
HIS006020HISTORY / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)
HIS027160HISTORY / Military / Canada
JUV004040JUVENILE FICTION / Biographical / Canada
JUV016160JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Canada / General
JUV016170JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Canada / Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
JUV016180JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)
JUV030030JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Canada / General
JUV030090JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Canada / Native Canadian
JNF025050JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / Canada / General
JNF025230JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / Canada / Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
JNF025240JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)
JNF038040JUVENILE NONFICTION / People & Places / Canada / General
JNF038120JUVENILE NONFICTION / People & Places / Canada / Indigenous
JUV030090JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Canada / Indigenous
POE011000POETRY / Canadian / General
POE011010POETRY / Canadian / Indigenous
POL056000POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Canadian
POL056000POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Canadian
TRV006000SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / Canadian Studies
TRV006010TRAVEL / Canada / Atlantic Provinces (NB, NF, NS, PE)
TRV006020TRAVEL / Canada / Ontario (ON)
TRV006030TRAVEL / Canada / Prairie Provinces (MB, SK)
TRV006060TRAVEL / Canada / Quebec (QC)
TRV006040TRAVEL / Canada / Territories & Nunavut (NT, NU, YT)
TRV006050TRAVEL / Canada / Western Provinces (AB, BC)
YAF024040YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Historical / Canada
YAF046050YOUNG ADULT FICTION / People & Places / Canada
YAN025050YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION / History / Canada
YAN038050YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION / People & Places / Canada

BISAC Regional Themes

To provide additional help to retailers in identifying books of specific interest, BISAC has also established a system to identify Regional Themes. Canadian retailers and The 49th Shelf have identified this as something of interest to them.

At the moment the formal list identifies provinces and a very limited number of cities and sub-regions, but further refinement is possible. Like BISAC Subjects, the Regional Themes should be supported by actual published books.  This allows greater flexibility as the theme can be as loosely geographical as The Canadian Rockies (available), and has the potential to be as specific as a Montreal neighbourhood (no one has proposed one yet) – it's just a matter of how much is published.

A regional theme is intended to refer to the book's content (there are separate means in ONIX to identify the author's home town) and should be used to highlight a book for:

  • Appropriate sales representatives;
  • Regional purchase by booksellers and chain buyers;
  • Cataloging considerations and regional librarians;
  • Regional promotions and media.

The point of the Regional Theme is not to limit national sales, but rather to highlight regional opportunities. 

Proposals for new codes should be sent to Please note, however, that before BISAC will consider them we must have a list of 50 to 100 titles to demonstrate actual need (BookNet and it's Bibliographic Committee will attempt to build the list from multiple publishers, so if you perceive a need to define a region, let us know).

Note that books about other geographical areas can be similarly supported – the full list is here and there's no reason not to highlight a book related to Prague! – but here is a list of the current Canadian regions covered:

CodeLevelArea America Columbia Island Brunswick & Labrador Territories Scotia Breton Island Horseshoe Ontario Edward Island Territory Rockies Canada

The complete list of Regional Themes is available at

BISAC Merchandising Themes

 To provide additional help to retailers in identifying books of specific interest, BISAC has also established Merchandising Codes which are not used much in Canada.

The complete list of Merchandising Themes is available at