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Scouting Forums

Digital Literature and how to proceed

With the move to primarily/only digital literature, how are units handling no physical Scout Handbook?

In our troop, we gift new scouts with a Handbook so that they have the knowledge on hand to review and learn from. They are known for referencing their handbooks each week as the Troop Guide and Instructor lead them through new camping lessons. As they complete items, the youth and adult leaders mark items off in the scouts’ handbooks and let the advancement chair know so it can be recorded.

I know Scoutbook is the main location for recording advancement items, but our troop is still in transition from a different program for record keeping and many of my scouts do not have access to tech for recording into Scoutbook on their own. How are other units handling this transition and the ever increasing reliability on technology to access knowledge and records keeping?

The Scout Handbook is still the source of record in my troop for recording requirements


We use both in my troop, but the scouts rely mostly on the physical handbook. The majority of my scouts do not have their own Scoutbook accounts so the adult leaders handle most of the data input for rank requirements there.

I think it would be a mistake if the BSA decided to make the handbooks digital only.

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The last I heard is there is no plan to eliminate the physical handbook. Other publications may be going electronic only but not the handbook.


Handbook is an interesting discussion - as the Sea Scout handbook is only digital, and has been for a good period of time

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This post is what prompted mine:

So far, I am still telling scouts to purchase a physical handbook. To the best of my ability, as an ASM assigned to advise the patrol leader of one of our patrols, I work to keep the Scoutbook records up-to-date based on any signatures added to the scouts’ handbooks.

“Once again, it’s that time in our patrol meeting where Mr. Hamilton asks whether or not anyone has things that need adding to Scoutbook.”

If I get nothing from the scouts, I add nothing new to the record online. A couple of times, I’ve gotten scouts whose handbooks have been nearly “complete” for a given rank, but they haven’t been passing that along at the patrol meeting.

“Thanks, < scout name >. I see you have a ton of things to be transcribed to Scoutbook. Congrats on getting all of that signed-off. In the future, can you pass these along in smaller bites so I can do a little at a time as opposed to scrambling just before your BoR to get this entered? Awesome. Thanks. Remember, that time < scout name > lost their handbook at summer camp and had to scramble to get everything re-signed because they didn’t have a picture? This is so none of y’all has to do that again.” :^)

The requirements book isn’t the handbook. It was a boom that summarized the ha ebook and all merit badges in one slim volume. Nice, but few Scouts had them. Handy for adults to reference.


We actually had a couple of copies in our library for the scouts to borrow/reference. I’d have to ask our librarian if they ever got used by a scout.

the requirement book is a loss - we always had 2 at hut - I and PLC constantly used them in planning and SMCs

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Scouts BSA advancement record PDF

I found an signoff sheet PDF booklet for the 2019 requirements. I do not know if there is one for requirements as of 1 January 2021.

May 2019 Printing, at


2019 introduction (with URL corrected)

The rank requirements in this book are official as of Jan. 1, 2019, and must be used for earning all rank advancement. From time to time, advancement requirements change. Scouts should check with their unit leaders to ensure the requirements they are using are current. In addition, Scouts may find the latest advancement requirements at https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/advancement-and-awards/

Advancement and awards 2021 webpage

Updated January 2021

The requirements listed below for rank advancement and Eagle Palms are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America.

The requirements book was frequently out of date, even shortly after it was printed.

The only accurate place to get Merit Badge requirements is from Merit Badges | Boy Scouts of America

Rank requirements change less frequently but since each meeting should have at least 1 Scout handbook, they are easy to find without the requirements book.

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Thanks. I missed that part of the announcement. It just seemed like all of it was going digital.

It’s understandable that any printed resource becomes outdated rapidly, but having information that was not tied to an internet connection/device was incredibly useful. It also should have encouraged a more controlled and regular revision cycle for MB requirements, rather than random changed throughout the year. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to have that effect.

Now, we as scouters (and the scouts we serve) are subject to the whims of often unannounced changes to web resources for which there is no ability to even “subscribe” for change notices, and generally no archival history on which scouts who had already started the badge can rely. I suppose the librarian now needs to be responsible for regularly trawling the requirements page to download updates, and archive prior versions.

I’m not opposed to change, but it seems like a lot of changes are being made without full contemplation of the impacts. Is it really that difficult to announce that a new version of the requirements are being uploaded to the webpage with an opt-in email subscription option? It’s not perfect, but it seems like it would be a step in the right direction.

I use Scoutbook for the latest updated requirements. If they complete what is in there IMO they are good to go.

Electronics are a tool that we are going to have to get used to using on a more regular basis and adjust our training strategies to allow for them. I just wish they would have gone to a free platform for Merit badge Pamphlets like PDF rather than Kindle. That makes it so you can at least print it out if you need to.

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It isn’t even Kindle specific now. Scoutshop.org has the following help page: eBook Help Page
The new versions are via Adobe PDF, not Kindle.

It’s not a PDF you have to have a specific program.

Edit: They are doing it this way so they can still monetize it.

They are not Adobe PDF. I’d like that, but it is some fringe Adobe Digital Editions.

I don’t have a problem with electronics as a tool on my end as an adult leader but for scouts without access to tablets or phones, moving to a digital only platform for materials aimed at the scout is going to be prohibitive. At least for now.

I suspect they cannot go from a paid model to a free model during bankruptcy. The MB pamphlets are an asset of the BSA. Going to a free model (PDFs instead of paid electronic files with digital rights management) would be disposing of an asset which can’t be done without court permission.