The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society

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Overview

For ages, money has meant little metal disks and rectangular slips of paper. Yet the usefulness of physical money—to say nothing of its value—is coming under fire as never before. Intrigued by the distinct possibility that cash will soon disappear, author and Wired contributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigate the future of money…and how it will affect your wallet.

Wolman begins his journey by deciding to shun cash for an entire year—a surprisingly ...

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The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers--and the Coming Cashless Society

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Overview

For ages, money has meant little metal disks and rectangular slips of paper. Yet the usefulness of physical money—to say nothing of its value—is coming under fire as never before. Intrigued by the distinct possibility that cash will soon disappear, author and Wired contributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigate the future of money…and how it will affect your wallet.

Wolman begins his journey by deciding to shun cash for an entire year—a surprisingly successful experiment (with a couple of notable exceptions). He then ventures forth to find people and technologies that illuminate the road ahead. In Honolulu, he drinks Mai Tais with Bernard von NotHaus, a convicted counterfeiter and alternative-currency evangelist whom government prosecutors have labeled a domestic terrorist. In Tokyo, he sneaks a peek at the latest anti-counterfeiting wizardry, while puzzling over the fact that banknote forgers depend on society's addiction to cash. In a downtrodden Oregon town, he mingles with obsessive coin collectors—the people who are supposed to love cash the most, yet don't. And in rural Georgia, he examines why some people feel the end of cash is Armageddon’s warm-up act. After stops at the Digital Money Forum in London and Iceland’s central bank, Wolman flies to Delhi, where he sees first-hand how cash penalizes the poor more than anyone—and how mobile technologies promise to change that.

Told with verve and wit, The End of Money explores an aspect of our daily lives so fundamental that we rarely stop to think about it. You’ll never look at a dollar bill the same again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Money is a hot topic—Wired magazine contributing editor Wolman observes that it is paradoxically something we think about "always and never." Tangible cash, on the other hand, is something "we think we know." However, Wolman believes that physical cash will soon cease to be. He explores this compelling possibility by talking with a number of fascinating characters, such as Pastor Glenn Guest of Bowman, GA, who, citing the biblical book of Revelation, believes the end of cash is the beginning of the end of the world; convicted counterfeiter Bernard von NotHaus; and Delhiite Sonu Kumar, who uses his cell phone to remotely update his State Bank of India account, a technological advancement that Wolman notes could be "the angel of death" to the paper and coin system. Cash alternatives are already in place, whether we acknowledge or recognize them as such, and Wolman (A Left-Hand Turn Around the World) reviews a few, including Kilowatt Cards and Disney Dollars. Just as interesting is Wolman's discussion of money, culture, and poverty: is cash truly—as Ignacio Mas of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation claims—the "enemy of the poor"? If cash goes away, will that really lead to financial inclusion for the world's poor? Wolman's writing is clear and thoughtful, and his use of characters and places add color and personality to this excellent investigation of a timely topic. Agent: Giles Anderson, the Anderson Literary Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, 1/15/12
“Alternating between in-depth reporting and personal rumination, Wired contributing editor Wolman tries to figure out what a cashless society would mean and whether it is an idea whose time has come…He has plenty of thoughts about what could replace physical money, but he is wise enough to understand that he cannot imagine all of the unexpected outcomes. An intriguing book on a topic that many readers have always taken for granted: the cash in their purses and wallets.”

Publishers Weekly, 1/30/12
“Wolman believes that physical cash will soon cease to be. He explores this compelling possibility by talking with a number of fascinating characters…Just as interesting is Wolman's discussion of money, culture, and poverty…Wolman's writing is clear and thoughtful, and his use of characters and places add color and personality to this excellent investigation of a timely topic”
 
Biz Books, 2/5/12
“You’ll never look at a dollar bill without thinking its societal costs are more than a dollar.”
 
The Fiscal Times, 1/26/12
“An entertaining and engaging canter through the world of money, both real and electronic.”
 

King Features Syndicate, 2/20/12
“[A] fascinating book…The End of Money will cause readers to rethink the contents of their wallets…This is an example of exceptional in-depth reporting that examines cash and predicts that in the near future our currencies will undergo a change that will be so dramatic it will change the way our world works.”
 
“The Bookworm Sez (nationally syndicated column),” 2/13/12
“What you’ll learn is surprising. Whether you’ve got greenbacks or gravy, pennies, pounds, or plastic in your pocket, I think you’ll find The End of Money extremely interesting. Money might not buy happiness, but reading this book is the next best thing.”
 
SecondAct.com, 2/9/12
“A fascinating exploration of how we are evolving into a society that relies entirely on plastic and mouse-clicks to buy, sell and save what we need.”
 
New YorkJournal of Books, 2/14/12
“A thoughtful and engaging study…[Wolman] skillfully covers the essential themes of theories on the economics, politics, sociology, and anthropology of money; and he does so painlessly…This is a very well written study, and it has none of the alienating gravitas of an economics tome. The author follows interesting stories populated by colorful characters. And he explains difficult concepts with skill…One of the best books in a long time on a difficult subject.”
 
PortlandTribune, 2/16/12
“Lively characters.”
 
PhiladelphiaSunday Tribune, 2/5/12
“Wolman dares to take a critical look at cash…Wolman’s investigation ensures that you’ll never look at a dollar bill the same way again.”
 
New American Foundation (The Ladder blog), 2/14/12
“A rallying cry for the anti-cash movement.”
 
Slate.com, 2/24/12
“[A] provocative new book…A tidy history of money and its discontents.”
 
Wired.com, 2/17/12
 “This is quite a romp, half digerotica, half travelogue…Whatever your take, reading this book will both entertain you and give your argument more currency.”
 
BizIndia.net, 2/19/12
“We tip our hats off to David Wolman for his pioneering efforts on this subject and for presenting his findings in this valuable book.”
 
InfoDad.com, 2/23/12
“[A] world-spanning tour…A book that has many intriguing elements…[Wolman] makes many good points about the absurdities of cash…Raise[s] some intriguing questions and present[s] the views and personalities of some very interesting people.”
 
The New Scientist, 2/25/12
“A particularly good chapter details the mobile banking revolution in the developing world…Interesting too are arguments for abolishing cash.”
 
BostonGlobe, 2/27/12
“[An] entertaining and enlightening account…Wolman has delivered an intriguing, thoughtful case against physical cash, aiming pile-drivers at its every weakness. Well-written and full of telling detail, The End of Money successfully envisions a better cashless future.”
 
PopMatters.com, 2/28/12
“The final effect of The End of Money on readers will not be to convince them one way or the other, but to elicit real thought on the nature of money itself, and to Wolman’s credit, that’s no small feat.”
 
MIT’s Technology Review, 2/28/12
“Wolman is such a thorough reporter…Wolman piles up any number of arguments against cash.”
 
Canadian Business
“[An] engaging new book.”
 
American Banker, 3/6/12
“[A] fascinating new book.”
 
DanPink.com, 2/28/12
”The book is fascinating.”
 
D.C. Technology Examiner.com, 2/29/12
“A fascinating must read book.”

The London Guardian (UK), 3/2/12
“Informally tech-hipsterish prose…One of the most illuminating stories here is the increasing use of mobile-phone payment systems in India and elsewhere.”

WashingtonPost, 3/10/12
“[Wolman] presents a fascinating and engaging thesis…a crucial look at the role of cash.”
 
The Week, 3/13/12
“Wolman’s book has people thinking about—and in some cases fearing—the prospect of a cashless society.”
 
Technology Review (website), 3/12/12
“The End of Money reads like a late-night walk through the seedier corners of the global economy…Wolman stops just short of advocating against paper money Paper bills account for most economic activity, so it's hard to argue the world is ready to live without them. And because any substitute would need to be electronic, it also raises questions about what would happen if the lights ever went out. It's precisely such profound, even apocalyptic, questions that The End of Money succeeds at provoking.”
 
TheStreet.com, 3/5 (referring to excerpt from book posted by TheAtlantic.com)
“Fascinating and erudite.”
 
Financial Times, 2/17/12
“Wolman makes a brave case for the idea that ‘killing currency wouldn’t be a trauma; it’d be euthanasia.’”
 
ABA Banking Journal, 3/16/12“Wolman presents a fascinating history of cash along the way towards expounding his theory…The author is able to insert humor into this far reaching examination of money. I found the book to be entertaining and educational.”
 
Sky, April 2012
“[An] entertaining little book.”
 
New City Chicago, 3/13
“This work has significant merits in its explorations of not just currency and its future (or lack thereof), all around the world, but in its plumbing of governments’ monetary policies and in accessible explanations of ‘money’ versus cash versus currency…[The] sometimes devil’s-advocate quality of The End of Money is most attractive.”
 
Bookviews (blog), April 2012
“An interesting look at the way the exchange of money has changed over the years and what it is likely to be in the future.”
 
The Observer (UK), 3/24/12
“Wolman's vision of a future without cash has a serious side, but has gonzo brilliance as well…[The End of Money] takes us on a whistle-stop tour of intriguing monetary phenomena that it would be difficult to learn about elsewhere…Wolman's conversational prose style comes into its own; and many of his interlocutors are, if you'll forgive the pun, priceless…[Wolman’s] book is a lively introduction to this important topic.”
 

Reference and Research Book News, April 2012
“Engaging and well written and will appeal to general readers with an interest in the social consequences of technology.”
 
Across the Board, April 2012
“A brightly written exploration of all things monetary…The breeziness and anecdotal format is pleasurable…The book is both entertaining and provocative, and no reader will get to the end without—perhaps for the first time—thinking about what’s in their wallet.”
 
CBC News (website) (Canada), 4/13/12
“Full of critical thinking about cash and economies.”
 
MidwestBook Review, April 2012
“From a history of the invention and rise of physical money to the evolution of paperless alternatives and cross-cultural influences on cash today, this pairs history with insights from a range of individuals who see the option of a 'cashless society' as either a big pro or a big con. Any collection strong in economics and money issues will find this an intriguing survey of what will happen to counterfeiters and others in the coming cashless society.”
 
San Francisco Book Review / Sacramento Book Review, 4/18/12
“Several policy questions can be asked after reading this brilliant book…Invaluable end-of-chapter notes and bibliography make this study a good starting point for those seeking further research and writings on money.”
 
“Fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable…Wolman finds fascinating characters to shed light on the inadequacies and toxicity of cash…Just the type of book that curious readers…would naturally gravitate toward.”

InsideHigherEd.com, 7/25/12
“Thoroughly enjoyable.”

Curled Up with a Good Book, 8/05/12“An objective and current exploration of the history, evolution, structure, and production of money as well as our cultural and emotional attachment to the stuff…One needn’t be an economist or even interested in the field in order to enjoy this revealing and often surprising look at how money affects us on a personal level and as a community. Whether you’re eager to be rid of those stray pennies or you think the end of cash is the beginning of the end, you’ll be challenged by the facts Wolman brings to light in this vivacious account.”

Reason, July 2012“Offers breezy profiles of various figures on the frontiers of our world’s complicated relationship with physical money.”

Stanford Magazine, September/October 2012“Wolman deftly and humorously picks his way through the fascinating world of those hidden costs [of using cash].”

Amazon.com 2012 Best Books of the Year: Business & Investing

Amazon.com
Top 100 Picks for 2012

WashingtonPost, Wonk blog, 12/3/12“A fascinating look at whether the world will one day go cashless.”

Washington Post, Top 5 Business Titles, 1/31/13


Payments Views blog, 4/8/13
“An enjoyable book, which shows, yet again, that a payments industry outsider can have refreshing perspectives on our business.”

Kirkus Reviews
Alternating between in-depth reporting and personal rumination, Wired contributing editor Wolman (Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling, 2008, etc.) tries to figure out what a cashless society would mean and whether it is an idea whose time has come. The author decided to live without spending cash for a year, but he does not develop that portion of the saga at length. Mostly he focuses on visionaries who are hoping, for a variety of reasons, to eliminate paper money and coins. Some of the advocates believe a cashless society would function more smoothly and reduce deficit spending. Others are more politically oriented, wanting to remove governments from printing/coining what has come to be called "money." In Iceland, Wolman looks at whether or not the citizenry will actually put an end to the national currency. In England, he mingles with deep-thinking reformers who discuss how to achieve a digital cash economy. In economies mired in poverty, including much of rural India, Wolman notes how cash transactions make little sense. In many economic circumstances, writes the author, writing checks against a bank account is both illogical in theory and costly in terms of savings lost. As the narrative progresses, Wolman riffs on dirty money (literally, since bills and coins transmit germs), the successes and failures of counterfeiters, the techies who have turned their smart phones into banks and many other twists spawned by thinking about money as a physical object. The author mostly keeps his biases masked, but he leans toward the belief that physical money is in its twilight. He has plenty of thoughts about what could replace physical money, but he is wise enough to understand that he cannot imagine all of the unexpected outcomes. An intriguing book on a topic that many readers have always taken for granted: the cash in their purses and wallets.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306821479
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 785,907
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired. He has written for such publications as OutsideMother JonesNewsweekDiscoverForbes, and Salon, and his work appeared in Best American Science Writing 2009. A former Fulbright journalism fellow in Japan and graduate of Stanford University's journalism program, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he received a 2011 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship. His previous books are A Left-Hand Turn Around the World and Righting the Mother Tongue. Visit his website at www.david-wolman.com and follow him on Twitter at @davidwolman.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is a decent overview of the current state of cash usage &am

    This is a decent overview of the current state of cash usage & movements towards other payment forms, such as PayPal, mobile payments through cell phones, and digital currencies, such as BitCoin. I found the information to be fairly good, albeit surprisingly dated given the Square Register and BitCoin innovations within the last year or so. Overall, the information on the Federal Reserve and seignorage was alright, again, albeit short and sweet. This is a good primer on money and finance but is by no means comprehensive.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Why the price difference?

    Why is this $16.25 on Nook and $11.95 on my Ipad.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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