Press room

Pilot Draft of Thema Global Subject Codes Published

Thema Board also announces sunrise date for the new standard

London, England (April 16, 2013) — 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.

“As publishers and retailers conduct an increasing amount of their business across a multitude of markets, often with distinct cultural and linguistic identities,” said Karina Luke, interim Chair of the Thema Board of Directors, and Executive Director of Book Industry Communication (BIC), “it has become clear that a truly global solution to categorize and classify book content was needed. Thema answers that call.”

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 should be prepared to include Thema codes in their metadata, and the earliest date by which retailers and others downstream should be expected to accept Thema codes.

“With the pilot draft now published,” noted Emad Eldeen Elakehal (MD,, a Thema Board and Technical Committee member representing the Pan-Arab Group, “we expect interest in and adoption of the standard to ramp up quickly.”

The standard Thema 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.

The initial draft of the Thema standard will be available for download from the Thema website ( by 20 April 2013. Anyone interested in learning more about Thema should contact his or her closest local representative. A list of representatives can be found on the Thema website.


Thema Governance
The organisations involved in the founding of Thema have agreed that the on-going maintenance and development of Thema will be managed in a similar open way to existing standards such as ONIX, through a combination of National Groups, a specialist Technical Committee and a Steering Body. Details of the constitution, remit and organisation of these groups are being finalised. Participation will be open to all interested parties and is actively encouraged. Full details of how organisations worldwide can engage and participate at the most appropriate level will be forthcoming within the next few weeks.

Canadian Thema Working Group
The anglophone and francophone publishing supply chains in Canada are represented in a joint group led by BookNet Canada and BTLF.

For more information, Canadian publishers should contact one of the following representatives:

Anik Laflamme
Tom Richardson
BookNet Canada