Why can’t I Print the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition PDF?

6 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

No Printing Allowed on PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition PDF

Many PMI Members who downloaded the PDF version of the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition were surprised to find the “Print” button disabled on the PDF file. It caught my attention too, though I had no intention to waste 400 sheets of paper (for an 800-page guide). In an old blog post, I had emphatically stated that PMI allows you to legally print the PMBOK Guide PDF for your personal educational use. I had even linked to PMI’s Terms page and shared an email reply from their customer care confirming the same. I decided to investigate.

The first thing I did after noticing the disabled Print button was to hop over to PMI’s Terms page. On Sep 9, 2017, it had the following paragraph:

3.2 PMI Content. As a courtesy to our customers and members, we have posted to the Site certain PMI Content. Unless otherwise specifically set forth on the Site or we give you written permission, you may only use and access, download and copy the PMI Content (and print a single copy) for your personal use, and you agree you will not alter, erase or otherwise obscure our copyright, proprietary or other notices on the PMI Content.

It clearly stated that you were allowed to print a single copy of the Guide for your personal use. But if that’s the case, then why was the Print button disabled on the Sixth Edition of the guide? Was it due to a technical glitch or have the Terms changed? I thought it would be best to seek clarification from PMI directly. So, I immediately shot an email to PMI customer care.

My Email to PMI Customer Care

Here’s what I wrote in the email on Sep 9, 2017:

I’m a PMI member (membership ID: XXXXXXX). I would like to print 1 copy of the PMBOK Guide for my own personal educational use. However, the printing on the downloaded PDF is disabled.

PMI’s terms section 3.2 states that I can print a single copy of the PMI standards for personal educational use:


How am I supposed to print the guide then if printing is disabled? Please clarify.

PMI’s Response

Here’s a response I received from PMI Customer Care 1 week later on Sep 16, 2017:

Dear Harwinder,

Although previous versions of the PMBOK® Guide were printable, the incidence of piracy has increased significantly in recent years. It is important for us to protect the integrity of our publications so that we can continue to bring you the information you need to drive successful outcomes. As a PMI member, not only can you enjoy read-only access to all of our standards and practice guides, you can also purchase the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition and the Agile Practice Guide bundle in print for 50 percent off the list price. Our terms are now consistent with this change.

We value you as a member and a credential holder.

Update to PMI’s Terms

I again headed over the PMI’s Terms page, and indeed they had been updated. Here’s how they read today on Sep 24, 2017:

3.2 PMI Content. As a courtesy to our customers and members, we have posted to the Site certain PMI Content. Unless otherwise specifically set forth on the Site or we give you written permission, you may only access and download the PMI Content for your personal use, and you agree you will not alter, erase or otherwise obscure our copyright, proprietary or other notices on the PMI Content. You may not do or allow anyone else to do anything with the PMI Content which is not specifically permitted under this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that the PMI Content is made available for informational and educational purposes only without representation or warranty of any kind and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. Your reliance upon PMI Content obtained by you on or through the Services is solely at your own risk. All rights not expressly granted in this Agreement are reserved to PMI.


So, long story short:

You are NOT allowed to Print the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition even for your personal educational use.

Note that the same restriction applies to PMI’s other standards as well.

My Opinion on the Permissions Change

In my opinion, the move is unfortunate and PMI is going too far with their protectionist measures.

  • In the Fourth Edition, they added password-protection and disabled the ‘copy’ feature on the PDF.
  • In the Fifth Edition, they started stamping PMI Member Name and ID in the footer section of every page of the PDF version.
  • In the Sixth Edition, they have added a big, bold and ugly watermark “Not for Distribution, Sale or Reproduction” running diagonally across every single page of the Guide. The watermark is super distracting, annoying, and directly interferes with the readability of the guide. On top of that, they have disabled the ‘print’ feature too.

If the trend continues, I anticipate that they would prohibit the download of the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK Guide, and only let you read it online by logging onto their website.

In my view, the latest move does more harm than good. The only good that it hopes to achieve is to stop piracy. But would it really stop piracy? For anyone determined to break the protection on a PDF file, it takes less than 5 minutes to do so.

On the other hand, it is going to cause lot of inconvenience to thousands of PMI members who prefer to read from a hard copy than from an eBook, despite paying a membership fee. They will now have to fork out more $$$ to buy a hard copy version as well (adding to PMI’s bottomline). It also harms PMI’s reputation as a “nonprofit” organization.

Let me know what you think about the move. Do you have a better suggestion for PMI to stop the piracy without compromising the readability and usability of their standards?

Looking forward to the comments.

Leave a Comment

Please select the checkbox


Dr Paul D Giammalvo Avatar

Hi Harwinder, Good job of research and reporting. Much appreciated.

FWIW, the Guild of Project Controls has written and published a 650 page e-book http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/GPCCAR-modules which is a COMPILATION of “best tested and proven” practices from around the world and not only have they made it available at NO COST, they also have published it under “Creative Commons License BY” https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

How much longer are people going to be willing to fund and fund PMI when not only doesn’t what they are advocating WORK but that the organization has become nothing more than a cash cow and source of job security for those who run it?

Bottom line- there are other organizations that are not as well known or as good at marketing marginal products and who have developed COMPETENCY based credentials that are well worth investigating.

BR, Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Dr. PDG,

Welcome back. It’s been a long time. Hope you’ve been doing great.

Thanks for your appreciation. I agree with you and believe that the PMBOK Guide should be made available free of charge under the CC license, but then who will buy PMI Membership then and how will PMI charge thousands of in license fee for derivative work?

The irony is that it is not created solely by employees of PMI but rather with the contribution of thousands of unpaid volunteers and project management practitioners like me (BTW, my name appears in the Reviewers section page 660 of the Sixth Edition), but at the end we don’t even get a free copy.

Anyway, we know how things are and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

I tried downloading the GPCCAR eBook but it seems I need some sort of membership. What’s the easiest way to get access?


Jeevan Gangapuram Avatar

Hi Harwinder, Good article with nice supporting facts. I am not yet a PMP, but I am a PMI member since 2009. Unfortunately the idea behind what PMI is trying to achieve will be futile and it’s purely an inconvenience to loyal and responsibile members. If they don’t trust us why would we and continue to pay every year for the membership renewal.

[edited out by blog author] Did PMI achieved what they are intended to?

I am due to renew my membership (PMI & the Local Chapter) by end of this month and I am contending what to do!!!! I wish every PMI member try to raise this with the PMI and make them take an online survey asking for opinion for the benefit of everyone prior to implementing/ imposing such harsh and futile restrictions.

Best regards,

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Jeevan,

Thanks for your comment.

Note that I had to remove some parts of your comment because it had started encouraging piracy (I rejected a comment about someone seeking details about it from you).

I replied to PMI Customer Care and gave them my feedback. I’m unlikely to renew my PMI membership that will be expiring next month.

Jeevan Gangapuram Avatar

Hello Harwinder, Thank you for your help in removing /editing part of my earlier comments. I am not in favour of Piracy, but as mentioned the free complementary Pdf copy available for PMI members is unreadable on Tablets while travelling /commuting to work because of password and annoying Watermark . And in this dynamic and ever evolving IT space, the measures taken only causing inconvenience and not really meeting the intended purpose. I meant to say only that, nothing above or beyond.

Thank you once again and appreciate your understanding.

Wish you a nice day and a wonderful weekend.


Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Asad,

Thanks for your comment. I absolutely agree with you. The only good it would do would be to increase the sales of hard copies translating to more revenue for PMI. So from their perspective, it appears to be a smart move, even if it doesn’t stop piracy one bit.

Mike Avatar

Cecile, Harwinder, this is my big gripe too.

In assertively protecting their IP, it seems to me that PMI is being massively disrespectful to their members and customers. Their strategy is more about the bad actors, than it is about the honest people who pay (a lot of) good money for their publications, and deserve to be able to read the content.

From para 1.4 of PMI’s code of ethics: ‘The values that the global project management community defined as most important were: responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.’ Hmmm.

I have made this complaint on my site, and I hope senior PMI representatives will start to take notice of of measure articles like Harwinder’s.


Harwinder Singh Avatar


Thanks for pointing me to the Amazon reviews. The “anti-counterfeit print technology” seems to have really compromised the readability of the guide. This is so unfortunate. PMI seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

I hope more and more people voice their concerns, and that PMI takes note and does course correction.

Mohamed Abdlemageed Avatar

Yes I do totally agree with you …. Protection of PMI rights depends on the PMI’s code of conduct that we have agreed to be PMI members and certified PM… the good point that PMI is not profitable organization so they go that far in protection…. it is totally unfair for us as PMI members to be the ones who pay for that as to break the security of the file i does not take more than 5 minutes..
the first line of the PMI rights protection is us as PMI members and they should put more trust on that ….

Chandrasekhar Yechuri Avatar

After 4-5 years, I am rekindling myself to all that is PMI and find your blog still captivating. Your home page now looks super clean!

As for this article, I think if PMI wants to truly propagate project management practices far and wide, then as a NPO (non-profit org) it should make all its standards freely and widely available.

Since that was missed, and a lot of restrictions have been placed over the years, the PMI should allow atleast one print of the soft copy and then make the print option disabled.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Welcome back, Chandrasekhar!

Thanks for comments about the blog. Yes, I went for a minimalistic theme this time around and removed most of the distractions.

I agree with your comments. However, disabling it after the first print may not be technically feasible (at least I don’t think PDF has any such feature).

Keep in touch!

Anonymous Avatar

Upload the PMBOK to google drive. Right click and select “make a copy”. double click on the new copy in google drive. it will load the preview. download it or print to pdf and you have an unprotected copy of this to be printed or opened without password.

I really understand the frustration and wanted to let you know that there is a way around.

pmbok 6th edition pdf Avatar

This is a big blow to the freedom to education. Its always good to have a printed copy when you read a book like PMBOK (it is no less than reading a Law book). Though it is the era of electronic reading but it is limited to news, facebook etc. For the intense education, it is still good to have paper based reading material. It is nothing but another way for PMI to open a new source of earning. I hope this goes away soon so that PMP aspirants can print and make learning fun.

JuzMe Avatar

I am a PMP Aspirant and am planning to take the test in 2018. I am VERY VERY disappointed with PMI. I am now having second thoughts about renewing my PMI membership and taking the test. I downloaded PMBOK 6th edition, skimped through some pages and wanted to print Table 1-1 (the table that showed the area mapping of progress groups and knowledge area) but I am not able to do so :(.

I would like to ask PMI one question: if PMI is the project manager, how is he/she going to motivate the project team (aspirants like me) to get the work done (that is to be certified)? What about their the code of ethics about FAIRNESS. Are they being fair to PMI members who pay membership fees yearly? Do not forget, after certification, every 3 years, I have to pay to get PDUs (e.g., online classes in PMI website or attending conferences, etc.) and to pay membership renewal fees, so having 20+% increase in pay would mean, in my opinion, giving away that increment to PMI to fill their pockets.

Harwinder, you mentioned you were “hoping more and more people voice their concerns, and that PMI takes note and does course correction”, where do I go to voice my concerns?

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Thanks for sharing your comments. I can empathize with you.

I suggest you tweet to PMI on Twitter and post it on their Facebook wall, send an email to their customer care, and also share it in forums on Linked In and other networks.

Jacky Avatar

I agree that this change in policy stinks for the members. I don’t want to carry around my computer or large book everywhere. I wanted to print several of the process groups only to take on a long trip. I will be unable to do so. What a pain.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Jacky,

Thanks for your comments.

It’s an absurd policy and causing lot of inconvenience to legitimate owners of the PDF version. I encourage you and everyone else affected by this policy to write to PMI via their social media channels and email.

syma Avatar

fair decision, we need particular material from PMBOK, but we are unable to print. every one is having their own way of reading. i think most of the people are comfortable reading hard copies.

Virginia Avatar

I am really upset with PMI, after paying the membership I got really disappointed with that huge and annoying watermark, the fact I cannot print once the book and to make it even worst on user experience, they blocked highlights and comments. This is ridiculous!!!!

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Virginia,

It is indeed ridiculous, and very annoying. As I’ve mentioned in the other comments, do not stop here. Reach out to PMI and let them know about your views. Hopefully, with more and more complaints pouring in, they will realize their mistake and the need to keep the interest of their "customers" first.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Bert Sandler Avatar

I have been a PMI member since 2007, when I became a PMP. I have a copy of the 5th edition on my desk that I printed and refer to it continually. It is a source of information to me and to the junior PMs that I mentor. As you, I am sorely disappointed that I cannot print the 6th edition with the Agile guide, especially since I am creating a hybrid methodology for our organization.
There are many options that PMI could have implemented, the easiest could be providing a free copy to all PMI members; They could implement a flag on each member that is updated on print. I would also be interested in the data that is used to justify the pirating theory (the number of copies of the PMBOK that have been pirated and the source of the information). I will most likely maintain my PMP credential for the next couple of years, but will do so for my career and not to support PMI. Thanks for a great article.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bert.

I completely understand your feeling. I do not have a favorable view of PMI anymore and do not believe that they are a non-profit organization. I sign up for PMI membership at the time of renewal of my certifications, but do not feed more dollars to them otherwise.

ZHarris Avatar

@Harwinder Singh: I have just sent an email echoing these thoughts and a link to this page to the new CEO of PMI: Sunil Prashara, e-mail = sunil@pmi.org. Drop him a line too!

R Carlisle Avatar

I wish I had seen this article earlier; I would have responded much sooner. Dr Paul hit the nail squarely on the head. I am a PMP and have been for several years. I decided about 2 years ago to quit paying for the PMI membership, when I realized the cost is substantially higher than the benefit. PMI’s business practices really are just about the bottom line. I recently coached a group of PMs who plan to sit for the PMP exam. Out of the 15 I coached, maybe 3 actually had the real PM hours and skills to qualify for the exam. However, PMI approved every single application in less then 2 days with no audits. PMI is de-valuing the PMP credential in order to boost their bottom line. This really has nothing to do with piracy, which I am very against.

Sinan Celik Avatar

I wanted to print some guide and standards to read during my vacation, and I was surprise when I could not print any of them. I never try to print the PMBOK, but I need the other smaller guide.

I hate to read for hours from a tablet or a computer. I wish I had seen this article earlier; instead of paying yearly fee, I could buy all the book from Amazon.

Fernando O Avatar

I got surprised when I just finished my membership enrollment, downloaded the PDF version and got a file that does’t allow me to add notes and make highlights electronically. 2020 PMI expects that I buy a physical copy to proper study to PMP exam, really? Unbelievable!

RYeo Avatar

Agreed, I just found out too and it’s shocking. How do they expect anyone to study without highlighting or making adding a comment! What an experience in my first step into PM world. Now I need to find a way to make highlights… :-(

Harwinder Singh Avatar

I downloaded a new copy of the PMBOK Guide recently using my PMI.org account and noticed that the big diagonal watermark is no longer there. That’s a huge plus. Seems like they are listening and taking action (albeit slowly).

Pia Avatar

The print prevention is indeed a big obstacle. It is like penalizing those who pay the exam fees and the membership fees to be able to download the electronic version and yet find it of no use as far as exam prep goes. I was surprised that the pdf does not even allow you to mark-up or add comments, so basically it is as good as reading a story book and that’s not even close to being enough for an exam prep! PMI is instead trying to sell the hard copy to the examinee which costs $100 (99 actually) on top of the $400 plus that the examinee already pays! Very disappointing! And I agree with what you mentioned in the article, even after all this the actual piracy may not stop since if one really wants to take the permission off there are several software available in the market. So all this from PMI only to make it difficult for the examinee but not really for the pirates!

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Thanks for your comments, Pia.

I completely agree with what you said. I hope they listen and some common sense prevails. They did remove the big, bold, diagonal and atrocious watermark from the guide after the initial backlash. That was a big relief!

Tamara Avatar

Thank you for posting this. I was so frustrated trying to figure out how I could print this because I use multiple modalities to study in which some require a hard copy. I don’t mind my name/member ID on the document if the annoying watermark was not there and if I could have the print function. I am a member of other organizations for my industry and we can still print publications that come free with the membership.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hi Tamara,

Thanks for your comment.

The big diagonal watermark is gone (thankfully!), but the copy and print restrictions remain.

The guide, which is developed using volunteer effort, is not free for the volunteers, and has print restrictions even for paying members.

It’s the PMI-way :)