I’ve had my copy of the 12th Edition of the new Scout Handbook for a couple of weeks now and I recently added the Scout Handbook to my Ipod touch. I have also looked over the website bsahandbook.org.
As the way we use and manipulate information changes I applaud the BSA in attempting to keep up. Information seems to have aspirations to take on one form or another so it will be used. Information flows into the most accessible platform and seems to favor maximum flexibility. It morphs from thought to speech to type to video almost instantly in its quest to be useful.
None of the three ways to get the Scout Handbook is perfect but they are greater than the sum of their parts.
I was disappointed, at first, that the new hard-copy handbook did not follow the convention of dividing information by rank advancement. We had grown used to using the color coded tabs of the old handbook. The new handbook divides information and skills into three broad categories (scoutcraft, woodcraft and campcraft). After some thought I like the new system better. Instead of emphasizing advancement the new presentation emphasizes Scouting. Rather than a series of small achievements Scouting is seen as a series of experiences. I think this approach puts the cart and horse in their correct places.
I find the graphic design of the new handbook a little cloying. I think visually and appreciate illustrations, charts and other graphics but the new handbook seems to be a bit overloaded with them. I think, too, that the handbook is far too large. I’d like to see a hand book of fewer pages in a smaller format that would better fit into a backpack and not fall to pieces quite so quickly.
The Ipod app is in it’s first iteration (hopefully there will be significant improvements). It does not use some of the more expansive possibilities inherent in the technology but I trust that someone is working towards a second edition.
The Web presence seems to be comprehensive and useful. I’d welcome a way to personalize and annotate the handbook online (recording advancement or taking notes).
All in all I think that the new Handbook works. I can see a day, in the not too distant future, when a more usable version is available electronically. I’d like to see the entire Scout Library (Merit Badge books etc.) available to download to a portable electronic device like the ipod. The technology exists and the whole project seems fairly easy.