Cover is a color photo-montage of smiling Scoutmasters, and Scouts hiking.
It's attractive, with full-color photos throughout. But its huge size (8.5x11"), and the fact that it must be placed in a ring binder when you remove it from its clear wrapping, makes it awkward to use. No Scoutmaster will bring this thing to a campout, or be likely to take it with him to troop meetings. Give me back a real handbook that I can keep in my briefcase or take camping.
9th Edition Summary and Printing History
Actual 9th Edition Table of Contents
Volume 1 cover is a color photo of Scouts jumping off a raft into a lake. Volume 2 cover is a photo silhouette of a Scout backpacking.
BSA have announced that a new, two-volume Scoutmaster handbook will be released in late 2013 (it's a few months behind schedule). This will be the first two-volume SM handbook since the 3rd Edition in 1936. BSA retitled it "Troop Leader Guidebook" to emphasize that it is aimed at all adult troop leaders, not just the Scoutmaster.
Volume 1, written by Mark Ray (who also wrote The Scoutmaster's Other Handbook), is aimed at new leaders, and will cover things like the patrol method, how to conduct troop meetings, the year-round program, and more. Volume 2, written by Bob Birkby (author of the current Scout Handbook), is aimed at more experienced troop leaders, and will have more in-depth information about high adventure, youth & adult training, and more.
I'm crossing my fingers that these two volumes will be bound books and not another cumbersome loose-leaf insert for a bulky 3-ring binder.