BIC Realtime

Page last updated 3rd April 2020

Welcome to BIC Realtime
Standards for Instant Business Message Exchange

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About BIC Realtime - Executive Summary
(For business leaders and non-technical staff)
BIC Realtime
establishes a set of standard messages to enable computers to communicate with each other via the internet in real time requesting information and receiving an immediate response. This is for virtually all book businesses which hold databases of information (e.g. distributors, wholesalers and data providers) which could be of use to their trading partners (e.g. booksellers). The book trade is very familiar with EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and the advantages of exchanging business messages electronically. But EDI is usually a batch transaction rather than a real time transaction. Now using XML communication over the Internet, businesses can communicate much more quickly, obtaining real time replies to their requests. This standard is recommended by BIC as the best way to implement these new messages between book businesses. 

BIC is not suggesting that longstanding and highly effective EDI implementations should be replaced by BIC Realtime but that existing capabilities can be significantly enhanced by implementing these additional messages. In addition new implementations should consider using the BIC Realtime API’s as a modern, cost effective standards based alternative to EDI. For example, booksellers could find out the latest price and availability information, request a list of back orders and cancel what they no longer need, request a list of invoices and a specific copy invoice, and an online bookseller can implement a change of customer address details with a fulfilment agent and send a notification to release a CDF (consumer direct fulfilment) order to this customer. These transactions are currently only possible by telephone or email and they are slow and expensive for both partners. BIC Realtime enables businesses to outsource this information request and response, to a computer system instead of its customer services and credit control departments etc. A panel of book industry experts has overseen this development and the result is BIC Realtime, a suite of standard messages which are ready for implementation. Case study coming soon.

BIC Realtime Introduction
(For technical management and staff)
BIC Realtime
is a suite of API's designed by and for the book industry and covering a range of business requirements. The BIC Realtime standard details the API formats and their data fields and effectively provides a template for organisations wishing to share this data with their trading partners. Database holders can deploy BIC Realtime to enable their trading partners to request this information and receive an immediate response. This will improve their customer service and reduce costs, for example by reducing the number of calls and emails requesting a copy of financial documents or to release or cancel backorders – these functions are effectively outsourced to the computer system to deliver to customers via a BIC Realtime API. Giving customers access to this data in real time eliminates issues and costs caused by daily or weekly batch updates which are out of date as soon as they are produced. This BIC Realtime web service documents (listed in the Table of Contents, below) contain links to a WSDL Definition for the SOAP protocol version of each message pair and an XML schema for Request and Response payloads in XML format. An Introductory User Guide and an Implementation Guide will be coming soon.   

BIC Realtime – List of currently available APIs
Here is the full list of BIC Realtime business messages:
Note that each message is always a pair - a request message followed by a response message - which contains the requested information or in some cases a functional response to acknowledge the request.

Product Metadata APIs:

1. Retrieve ONIX Product Information

API specification | WSDL | XSD

2. ONIX Product Information Acknowledgement
Acknowledges an ONIX feed and reports the result

API specification | WSDL | XSD

3. Retrieve Price & Availability
Requests price and availability information

API specification | WSDL | XSD


Ordering APIs:

4. Trade Order Request and Response
Places a trade purchase order 

API specification | WSDL | XSD

5. Retrieve Order List
Obtains a list of orders, e.g. dues

API specification | WSDL | XSD

6. Order Status Request and Report
Requests status of an order

API specification | WSDL | XSD

7. Request Order Cancellation
Cancels an order, e.g. from backorders/dues

API specification | WSDL | XSD

8. Request Backorder Release
Asks for backorders to be released for supply

API specification | WSDL | XSD

9. Short Pick Notification
Notifies recipient of a shortage/zero pick

API specification | WSDL | XSD


Financial documents APIs:

10. Retrieve Financial Document List 
Requests a list of financial documents, e.g. invoices

API specification | WSDL | XSD

11. Retrieve Financial Document
Requests a copy of a specific financial document

API specification | WSDL | XSD

12. Post Financial Document
Sends a financial document, e.g. invoice)

API specification | WSDL | XSD


Returns APIs:
If you are implementing returns using BIC Realtime then you must implement both 'Returns Authorisation and Despatch' (14) and 'Post Authorised Returns Advice' (15), below.

13. Returns Request and Authorisation 
Requests permission to return books

API specification | WSDL | XSD

14. Post Authorised Returns Advice
States what is and is not actually being returned

API specification | WSDL | XSD


Consumer Direct Fulfilment APIs:

15. CDF Order Request and Response 
An order for a direct delivery to a customer

API specification | WSDL | XSD

16. Order Shipment Details Change
Enables changes to a CDF order, e.g. customer delivery address

API specification | WSDL | XSD

17. CDF Request Authorisation to Despatch Order 
Asks if order can be despatched

API specification | WSDL | XSD

18. CDF Grant Authorisation to despatch order 
Asks for order to be despatched

API specification | WSDL | XSD


EDI has benefited the book industry for many years with messages including purchase order, order response, invoice, credit note and returns, but trading partners have found that they need to exchange additional information in real time. Proprietary and bilateral XML Web Services were developed by some but these carried an increasing administrative overhead as they proliferated. The term, 'Web Services' is also often confused with online services via web sites. BIC has assembled a Working Group of industry experts who have reviewed the existing suite of BIC web services, updated them, added many additional message pairs as requested by members and now BIC can offer the industry a single, free to use, suite of XML messages (APIs) covering all the main requirements. These messages are called BIC Realtime

Why use BIC Realtime?

BIC Realtime is a suite of 19 standard business APIs:

  • Human readable XML is easily understood 
  • Quick to install and test
  • Far quicker and cheaper for 'message requester' to test and use
  • Covers new business functions not addressed by existing EDI solutions


Exchanging crucial information in real time with trading partners enables:

  • more automation
  • reduced costs in customer services, credit control etc.
  • better informed customers
  • more orders
  • more accurate service
  • more efficient transactions
  • closer relationship with trading partners


Implementing secure communications with BIC Realtime APIs
Although not explicitly documented in the BIC Realtime specifications, BIC recommends that implementations should adopt HTTPS, the secure, encrypted form of the web communication protocol, in strong preference to the unencrypted HTTP protocol. A proposal to require the use of HTTPS, or equivalent encrypted communication protocol, will be considered at the next revision.


Future revision of the BIC Realtime APIs
The following suggested revisions of the BIC Realtime APIs will be considered at the next review in January 2021:

  • Changes to the way that prices can be expressed, to align more closely with the forms of expression of pricing information used in ONIX records, to support a wider range of trading models for both physical and digital books.
  • Explicit support for the use of HTTPS, the secure web communication protocol, instead of HTTP.
  • Withdrawal of support for the inclusion of client IDs and passwords in API request payloads, replaced instead with a recommendation to use standard web authentication methods.
  • Explicit support for encoding request and response payloads in JSON, as an alternative to XML.
  • Possible deprecation or withdrawal of support for the option to use the HTTP GET method for submitting API requests.

An earlier review may be considered, if demand for these or other revisions becomes more urgent.

Submitting a technical question or request for changes
To submit a technical question or a request for changes with regards to BIC Realtime APIs, please email



BIC Realtime was developed by the BIC Realtime Task & Finish Working Group - now the BIC Realtime Review Group, which reports to the BIC Physical Supply Chain Committee. Further information about this Committee and the Groups that are under its remit can be found here.

A BIC Bite on BIC Realtime is available here.


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