BIC to Thema – after the conversion

Ronald Snijder

Wed 03 Apr 2024

Read this article at hypothè

Do you happen to be interested in Estonia; Antarctica; Ancient (Classical) Greek; the time period c 1914 to c 1918 (World War One period); Literary studies: c 1900 to c 2000; Publishing and book trade; Public international law: criminal law; Pharmacology; Rehabilitation: brain and spinal injuries; Colonialism and imperialism; Polymer chemistry; Ethics and moral philosophy or perhaps some other subject? These and many other topics are covered in the collection of the OAPEN Library and the Directory of Open Access Books. Each of these topics has its own classification code, and these have been added to the books and chapters in our collections.

For over a decade, we have been using the BIC classification code, which was used by many – mostly UK based – publishers. However, the BIC classification was deprecated in February 2024, and is succeeded by the Thema classification. Thema aims to be a globally applicable classification. It is a flexible standard that allows several groups to retain their unique cultural voice while still presenting a unified subject hierarchy that rationalizes book classification.

Automatically replacing BIC classifications by Thema Codes

Replacing BIC by Thema is by no means an easy task. The OAPEN collection contains over 33,000 titles, and DOAB lists over 80,000 titles. Most titles have more than one classification code, which means that after the conversion over 71,900 Thema codes have been added to OAPEN and a staggering 123,200 Thema codes are part of DOAB. Each record in our database must be updated: which means removing the BIC code and replacing it with the correct Thema code – or codes. For instance, the BIC classification “ACV” (History of art & design styles: c 1800 to c 1900) is replaced by the Thema code “AGA” (History of art) in combination with “3NM” (19th century, c 1800 to c 1899).

As you can imagine, this conversion requires careful planning and execution, and we chose to be thorough instead of fast. It is equally important that both platforms remain usable for everybody: during this process you have to keep on searching and downloading the books and chapters. In practice this means that we did not look for fast and risky ways. Instead, we used the preferred way to update the metadata – for those who want to know more: it is based on the Simple Archiving Format.

This process takes its time, and while all records of the OAPEN Library have gotten new classification codes, we are still updating the Directory of Open Access Books. From this moment on, publishers can add new titles to DOAB, even as the old records are being updated. Of course, newly added books to OAPEN and DOAB must have the Thema classification.

We have updated our documentation to reflect the change from BIC to Thema, and a new version of the DOAB Publishers’ Guide is available for you to download at

We want to thank you for your patience and support. It has been a challenging process, but now our platforms are using a future-proof categorization that will allow you to find many subjects, regardless of the language. We are incredibly happy with the results, and we hope you – reader, researcher, publisher, or librarian – are content as well. As always: feel free to ask questions at [email protected].