Introducing the BISAC subject headings: 2015 edition

We have some big and exciting changes to announce!

We have some big and exciting changes to announce!

BISG announced the release of the brand new 2015 BISAC Subject Headings code list this morning. While a new code list is typically announced every year, this year's list heralds a significant change in the top-level subject classifications for juvenile titles.


Earlier this year, BISG, backed by extensive stakeholder feedback, found a demonstrated need to give YA and teen content its own classifications separate from the JUVENILE codes. With the new 2015 code list, two new top-level trees have been added for YOUNG ADULT FICTION (YAF) and YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION (YAN) to address young adult audiences. Up until 2014, all such content was largely being classified under a limited set of JUVENILE FICTION (JUV) and JUVENILE NON-FICTION (JNF) headings. YAF and YAN now have a much larger set of classification codes available to them – 446 new codes to be exact! All in all, this is definitely a change for the better.

The BISG Subject Codes Committee created the YAF and YAN sections by adapting existing YA codes in the JUV and JNF sections and creating new headings and codes that are uniquely YAF and YAN. They also conducted extensive research with the companies represented on the committee to confirm that the new headings included in the list were indeed the most useful and effective.

How will young adult differ from juvenile?

It's now easier to understand!

It's now easier to understand!

Classifying books as one or the other will depend on the intended audience age for a particular book. The young adult headings are intended for literature targeted to readers aged 12-18 and in grades 7-12. While the juvenile headings are intended for literature targeted to children aged 0-11 and in preschool-grade 6.

New codes by the numbers

  • There are a total of 512 new BISAC codes in the 2015 headings list.
  • 446 of these codes are specific to young adult headings.
  • These new young adult codes largely parallel the corresponding juvenile headings list.
  • The juvenile section now has an additional 14 new codes.
  • 66 of all new codes fall outside of the young adult or juvenile code set

Code changes by the numbers

  • There are 76 changes to existing literal code descriptions.
  • 54 of these are changes to the juvenile headings list, but the majority come from splitting the "Social Issues" tree into "Social Themes" and "Social Topics"
  • JUVENILE FICTION now includes a "Social Themes" grouping
  • JUVENILE NONFICTION now includes a "Social Topics" grouping

Should this matter to me?

If you are a publisher, distributor, or wholesaler of YA or teen books then yes, absolutely, this matters and the change will likely begin with you. You should begin thinking about how you're going to transfer your currently used codes to the new headings.

If you are a retailer of YA or teen books then you should begin forming a plan to start accepting or ingesting these new codes and implementing them in your store or site plans.

If you are a library that uses BISAC codes then, thankfully, this new code list means a very clear and pronounced demarcation based on age range for YA and teen books that doesn't actually involve calculating age ranges (for you, anyway). You should be forming a plan to start implementing the new classifications in your programs.

If, on the other hand, you don't publish or sell YA or teen books, then this is more of a regular code list update for you and you only need to focus on the non-YAF/YAN changes to the code list.

When should I implement these changes?

In order to ensure that everyone who publishes and sells YA or teen books is uniformly changing their processes to include the new codes, BISG is recommending that the new codes be implemented no later than January 31, 2016.

This is a huge change—help—is it really worth it?

Don't worry, we've got you

Don't worry, we've got you

This is a one-time, big change and it is definitely worth it. Especially when you consider that there are now 446 codes to choose from just for YA and teen titles! Publishers of such books: you no longer have to pigeon-hole your precious book cargo into an only partially descriptive juvenile code. You have a strong and vast list of classifications that can get you closer to representing the true market value of your titles to your trading partners. Your titles' discoverability, your marketing strategies, and your selling potential will be hugely served by implementing the new YAF and YAN codes.


BISG members and non-members can download BISAC Subject Headings, 2015 Edition here. The list is free for members. If you are a non-member, we recommend that you purchase this list because it has extensive changes from older lists.

Still not sure how to proceed? Stay tuned for more information and resources from us on how to navigate these changes and how the new YAF and YAN codes will be affecting BookNet products and services. In the meantime, email if you have any immediate concerns.