BookNet Canada tells all

Over the last month, we have been hosting our very first AMA (or, "ask me anything" for you non-Redditors). You, our (anonymous) loyal followers, submitted your questions via Google form, and we promised you answers!

So without further ado, allow us to tell you everything you've ever wanted to know.

Q: What's more important, moving to ONIX 3.0 or doing Thema?

Both are important but, long-term, making the transition to ONIX 3.0 is more important than using Thema because ONIX 3.0 allows for greater accuracy in book metadata, supports new and improved structures that retailers need, and it can handle digital records. Start getting ready now! Our webinar with EDItEUR's Graham Bell is a great resource for making the transition.

That being said, you could also do Thema first because it's comparatively straightforward and Thema's subject categories and qualifier codes will remain the same whether you're using ONIX 2.1 or 3.0.

A few quick pointers on using Thema:

  • A Main Subject is a single (i.e., only one) subject category value that is used in ONIX's subject scheme identifier (code 93). Also, Thema qualifier codes from lists 1 through 6 (94 to 99) can't be used as a Main Subject, only as a regular subject entry.
  • The single Main Subject code should be accurate for the book's overall content, as it identifies the book as either fiction or non-fiction. Thema allows use of any code that accurately describes a book, so, for example, you could have a book where both FDH, a fiction code for "Espionage & spy thriller", and JPWL, a non-fiction code for "Terrorism, armed struggle", could be used appropriately. In which case, the only way to know if the book is fiction or non-fiction would be by looking at the Main Subject. Otherwise, Main Subject in Thema is used the same way as it is in BISAC – it helps retailers identify the primary section and buyer who should see the book.
  • Use the most specific codes (subject or qualifier) that apply and as many codes as it takes to describe the book while striving to create an entry with the fewest codes.

Want to learn more about using Thema? We're hosting a free, half-hour webinar on just this topic on June 6.

Q: Will you eventually have sales data available for ebooks?

We are continuing to work towards having ebook sales in BNC SalesData and hope that this will one day be a reality, though there is currently no timeline in place. This is largely dependent on the cooperation and participation of Canada's major ebook retailers.

Q: What skills/experience/education are you looking for during the selection process for your interns?

We look for the following qualifications when recruiting new BookNet interns:

  • College diploma or equivalent current course study in a Publishing program
  • A strong interest in the intersection of books and technology. If you want to be in sales, marketing, distribution, procurement, or operations, this will definitely come in handy.
  • An excellent grasp of Microsoft Excel. You need to be comfortable enough to learn quickly and painlessly.
  • High tolerance for painstaking research and strong problem-solving skills.
  • Flexible and adaptable. Well-organized and attentive to detail. We’re working on many projects at any given time and you could get pulled into any of them.
  • Courage to speak up and voice an opinion, more courage to not be afraid to ask the dumb question. (If you aren’t asking at least four a day, how can you learn?)

Additionally, we look for someone who is excited about the work BookNet does and is eager to contribute to the team! You can keep an eye on our Jobs page or sign up for our weekly eNews to find out when new intern job postings are up.

Q: Why does BookNet Canada not allow self-published authors to access SalesData?

At this point in time, we are unable to provide direct access to SalesData for authors or self-published authors. Given the costs and requirements involved in subscribing, a publisher should have at least a few titles being released on a regular basis and selling in the Canadian print trade market and agents should be representing authors with titles selling widely in the Canadian market before signing up.

Traditionally, authors have been represented by their publishers or agents in SalesData, as well as other BookNet products. As a non-profit supporting the entire Canadian book supply chain, our limited resources are focused on supporting small to large organizations, and we do not have the capacity to support potentially hundreds of individual authors. As self-publishing continues to grow in the Canadian market, we will continue to explore ways to better support this emerging stakeholder group.

We should also note that, at this time, SalesData only tracks sales for print books according to their assigned ISBNs. Books only selling in digital formats and/or without an ISBN cannot be tracked in SalesData.

Authors who have an agent or publisher are encouraged to check with them to see if they are SalesData subscribers. We have more FAQs for authors and self-published authors here.

Q: How many business books are published in Canada every year?

We looked in BiblioShare and found that there are 144,513 ISBNs using 188 different Business & Economics BISAC categories. This is the total number of ISBNs with metadata in BiblioShare, not just those published in 2017, which is a harder number to pin down.

The most popular BISACs being used are:

  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / General (27,002 ISBNs)
  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General (7,290 ISBNs)
  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Finance / General (7,235 ISBNs)

The least popular BISAC subjects are:

  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Insurance / Casualty (2 ISBNs)
  • BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Construction (2 ISBNs)

In terms of sales, there were just over 1 million unit sales tracked in BNC SalesData in the Business & Economics category last year, across 19,810 different ISBNs. This and other sales insights can be found in our annual report, The Canadian Book Market 2017.


We hope that we were able to dissolve some of the mystery surrounding BookNet Canada and our top secret operations. If you missed our AMA, but still have a burning question, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to answer it. Keep in mind, we do not provide sales data for individual titles; you will need to contact the book's publisher for that information.