What they are for and how they should be used
The BIC discount group code system exists to enable confidential information about discounts to be exchanged between trading partners. It may also be used to convey commission arrangements agreed for digital content traded under the ‘agency model'. The mechanism by which this is done is by means of a unique code, which can be conveyed in EDI and other electronic messages.
Uniqueness is guaranteed by means of a publisher prefix listing maintained by BIC. The code comprises eight characters, made up as follows:
- A single alphabetical character indicating the organisation which has assigned the code. At present all assignment is by BIC and all codes are therefore prefixed by the letter A, which represents a BIC assignment.
- A four-character alphabetical code representing the publisher and assigned by BIC. This may be in the form of a mnemonic or acronym, but need not be.
- A three-character alphabetical, numeric or alphanumeric code created by the publisher.
The first two elements of assigned codes are publicly available on the BIC web site in .pdf and .csv forms and are listed above.
The actual discount information is exchanged confidentially outside the coding system by agreement between trading partners. It is not transmitted in messages and cannot be inferred from the codes assigned. It is recommended that a structured matrix of codes and the discounts specifically applicable to the trading partner is provided and updated whenever any code meanings change.
Who is responsible for assignment of the publisher prefixes?
It is the distributor's responsibility to obtain and assign discount group codes on behalf of publisher clients. Self-distributing publishers - if they have the technical capacity to exchange data via EDI - may also do so. Some distributors - e.g. Macmillan Distribution and Littlehampton Book Services - have requested codes which recognisably identify them with the publisher concerned, using a standard two characters in front of a two-character publisher code.
How should publisher codes be obtained?
Code prefixes are available on request from BIC; and are published on the BIC web site as soon as they are assigned.
How does BIC guarantee uniqueness?
It can't, unless the rules are strictly followed. It is essential that changes in publisher client lists are notified to BIC as early as possible; and no code should be assigned or used without agreement from BIC until its uniqueness is confirmed.
BIC discount codes are required in BIC Basic and UK ONIX? Can codes be issued direct to publishers?
Codes can only be assigned to publishers if they are also their own distributors. Although the codes are a mandatory element in BIC Basic and ONIX, they will not be assigned simply to enable a bibliographic record to be complete. If distribution has been outsourced, it is the distributor's responsibility to obtain a prefix on behalf of the publisher.
What happens when there is a change of distributor?
This will depend on the circumstances. It is often desirable to assign a new prefix to the publisher; and this will always happen when a publisher moves from one of those distributors using their own distinctive two-letter prefix. If a non-specific prefix exists and there is no change to discount arrangements arising from the move, it is probably acceptable to transfer the prefix to the new distributor.
A distributor using its own two-letter prefix may not reassign a code to another publisher which has already been in use.
Are codes ever removed or deleted?
No. All codes, once assigned, remain on the published list, even if they are no longer in use.
Why is uniqueness important?
Integrity and accuracy of electronic communication is fundamental to its value. These codes are stored in wholesaler and retailer databases; and may well be accessed or used in ways publishers and distributors cannot anticipate. It is a requirement of the bookselling community that BIC maintains the uniqueness of codes through its administration of the scheme.
Can codes be swapped or exchanged?
No. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done if a particular code is wanted - for mnemonic or other reasons - which has already been assigned. In any event, the codes themselves have no significance in themselves except to facilitate automated messaging.