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Are PDF files of Merit Badge Pamphlets available?

As it is not possible for the troop to hold the meeting, our leaders are exploring the ways to encourage scouts to do scout activities. We find that now is a good time for them to work on merit badge requirements.

Due to the closure of the Scout Shop, however, the scouts do not have access to the actual Merit Badge pamphlets. Do you know any places where scouts can look up the actual merit badge pamphlets online so that they can read about the requirements as they work on them? (I am not talking about the worksheet, but actual pamphlets.) If you know any resources or links to the Merit Badge Pamphlets, please let me know.

Thank you.

Mika Watanabe


The BSA has not made PDF or other electronic versions other than a few Kindle editions of merit badge pamphlets available. You can find Kindle editions on Amazon.

If you do find any others online, these are pirated copies that violate federal copyright laws.


Some local shops may be closed. The national Scout Shop is in the process of converting to a “work from home” system and cannot accept orders via telephone at this time. However you can shop online by using the website.

Program literature including Merit Badge Series pamphlets can still be ordered from the BSA national Scout Shop.

Search for “merit badge pamphlet” at the BSA national Scout Shop.

Posted 19 March 2020

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Scouting.org does have the cover and requirements for each MB for free. Not the info part, but at least the requirement part. Your troop could have the librarian drop them off on door steps!

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Your troop webmaster could also email that info to everyone in the troop!

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Our troop is in the same predicament. The Kindle versions of the Merit Badge pamphlets would have been a good option in the current situation except that it looks as though the “digital push” has lost significant momentum since it was first introduced. Many of the subjects listed in the article are no longer being offered. Does anyone know why BSA’s Amazon Library hasn’t grown to include more Merit Badge pamphlets and what happened to the whole effort to go digital?


Time and treasure, most likely.

Providing the merit badge pamphlets as ebook is not free, though some people continue to insist they should be since there’s no paper consumed…


I agree with the time and treasurer comment.

Since the “heavy lifting” is done for the paper version, it might pay out for the ebook. One could do a study to say that the effort to make an ebook, after the paper one is complete, is X. Then distribution is basically zero. Does one break even at $5/each or get ahead? No inventory, no shipping, no old stock, no shelf wear. So, I wouldn’t argue for free, but I would argue to have them for those that want them.

With all that said, there is a cost that must be recovered. Maybe they didn’t sell well at all and lost due to no recovery. For Scouts, it seems, the paper version works well and then they can donate it to the Troop library for future Scouts.


I always encourage scouts to get the hard copy of the merit bade book. Not enough people (myself included) read books. You can order the MB books online from BSA (https://www.scoutshop.org/literature/program-literature/merit-badge-pamphlets.html). You can also find them in online retailers like amazon and ebay. Amazon also has some MB pamphlets as kindle ebooks (seven as of this post). but if you must have an online pdf version, if you search the internet hard enough or long enough you will find copies of merit badge books which have been scanned and posted on line by scout units. Maybe not all books, maybe not the most recent edition but they are there.


Here’s an applicable link https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2020/03/20/merit-badges-for-social-distancing/

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Once again, Merit Badge Pamphlets are copyrighted by the BSA. Any copies found online are pirated and violating federal copyright law. No Scout or unit should be making these available as they also violate the Scout Law, which we all vowed to uphold when we registered with the BSA.


I’m all for obtaining program material legally whether it is by purchasing hardcopy pamphets or digital versions. Now might be as good a time as any for BSA to revitalize the effort to make MB pamplets available electronically for purchase. I see that BSA recognizes that scouting can fill the vacuum in youth activities created by social distancing. But with our local scout shop closed and scoutshop.org only processing orders twice a week starting on Monday, we would have to wait for delayed ground delivery and pay the shipping cost on an item that is more than the cost of the item itself. It’s frustrating to know that BSA started but never followed through on a technology based solution that could have helped many scouts during this current crisis.


Totally agree. They obviously “went big” on all of the poorly selling merch from the last 2 jamborees. They should go just as big on this digital effort. There are lot of us like me who are “fools and their money” where I bought both a paper handbook and a digital one. So, again, it would be a great move.


About a week ago, an email on this was sent out, we will see if Supply group or Advancement team can be moved.


I won’t break the copyrights, so I am stuck. It would be a great time to BSA to deploy resources to make this happen.


Yeah, there are a couple of issues to doing it, though. They’re not insurmountable, but they do exist.

First, there are some expenses in creating the ebook version of the pamphlets – nonrecurring ones, like re-doing the editing to make the material play nicely with who-knows-how-many ebook readers; and recurring expenses like paying for storage space for the master files.

Second, DRM on ebooks is pretty darn trivial to break. Judging by the number of PDFs of merit badge pamphlets you can find online (even ones hosted by Troops!), it’s clear that many folks don’t take the copyright on them very seriously. Aside from simply breaking the DRM and sharing the files, that opens the potential to edit the content of the files to create unsanctioned, embarrassing, or even potentially dangerous instructions that appear to come from the BSA.


Well, they have space for Boys’ Life, so I assume they have space for these.

There must be some reason that they haven’t continued with MB pamphlets. They have the current handbooks for Scouts, for cubs, leader guides, committee guide, PL, and SPL. So, its not like they haven’t been here before.

As for the full PDFs on troop websites, the one I found to see how hard it was hurt. It was on a troop website and was clearly a color scan of a physical book.


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The first bits are an issue, for sure, but the BSA already maintains, at the very least, the digital master format used to publish the hardcopies. Having done a fair amount of desktop publishing work, retaining the master file isn’t really that large an overhead issue, even in various document formats. I worked in TeX and LaTeX, as well as other formats (InDesign, and PageMaker before it). The majority of the overhead is in the master graphics themselves, not in so-called camera-ready copy. Even the several hundred pages of my doctoral dissertation, including some pretty heavy-duty graphics, only occupied a dozen or so MB of space in the master format, and perhaps as much as 180MB in camera-ready copy. That’s << 2 MB per page on average, and at a very high resolution including significant graphics.

This one really isn’t that big a deal. I hardly need access to the original digital format to create a “parody” merit badge pamphlet, even now. Given the ubiquity of desktop publishing software and the ease of OCR access, it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to create such a beast even from the hardcopy. One could easily simply cut-and-paste words from one location to another in order to assemble strange or inappropriate content. In fact, given that one can send documents out to be printed in bulk in many different countries with essentially no oversight, it wouldn’t be that difficult to do so even for hardcopy “parodies”.

The solution to the security question is digital signing of the document, which, while there are ongoing costs associated with purchasing and maintaining such a key, only requires one key to sign all of the documents. The BSA’s response is simply “Our merit badge pamphlets are only available from scoutstuff.org. Any digital pamphlets purporting to be ours obtained from any other source are not legitimate. If there is any question about the authenticity of the document, you may verify it with our public key which is available here.” Yes, there’s more to the implementation than I have implied there is, but private/public key signatures are not a new technology, and are even available under GPL-type terms.


Well, like I said, not insurmountable problems regarding the storage and distribution issues.

Regarding troops scanning and posting PDFs of scans? That’s still a violation of copyright.


Thanks for the insight. Has there been any movement on it? What’s the best way for the field to send demand signals to the group or groups in the BSA who are in a position to act on it?