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

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  398 ratings  ·  73 reviews
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 andWiredcontributing editor David Wolman sets out to investigatethe future of money…and how it will affect your wallet. ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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As shop-worn as the trope is, I wish that The End of Money had a question mark at the end of its title, at least in spirit. In fact, the title belies one of the central difficulties of the project Wolman endorses: what the book is about is the end of cash, as in physical bills and coins, not the end of money, as in a medium of exchange. That the topics are confused in the book's title speaks to how deeply entrenched cash is in societies throughout the world, and the intense difficulty of dislodg ...more
Nicholas Moryl
There's no real thesis, there are factual errors, there's a lot of hearsay, and Wolman chooses to focus primarily on tabloid-level characters rather than serious thinkers. There's nothing really insightful here about the future of money. On the plus side, it's modestly entertaining from time to time, but if you want insight into money, economics, or payments, it's pretty shallow.
A good book, though not a must-read. Favorite quotes:

In the uneconomically titled chapter of [Marco] Polo’s travelogue, “How the Great Kaan [Kublai Khan] causeth the bark of trees, made into something like paper, to pass for money all over his country,” he described the bizarre arrangement, this slight of hand that somehow wasn’t. Yet the explorer knew full well that for his readers back in Europe, the explanation would likely fall short. “For, tell it how I might, you never would be satisfied t
Christopher Dixon
Good book on the future of money. Alternative currencies, especially ones of a digital variety, are coming en masse, and they'll probably be great. Even more so, they will be extremely accessible and beneficial to people all over the world, especially the poor, as Wulman convincingly argues. And possibly most consequential of all, the reign of national sovereign currencies, with the corruption, seigniorage, and devaluation that inevitably accompanies them, may at last come to an end.
Steve Newman
A quick and easy read, for "money" talk it had some humor and lots of interesting, and primarily useless, facts about the purpose, history, and use of money.

It was interesting, at least for me, for Mr. Wolman to explore the potential impacts of moving to an all digital currency (such as Bitcoins, or others). From distribution and use benefits to the poor, to privacy and anonymity for all, a future cash-less society has many benefits but just as many pitfalls for broad and wide usage.

It was also
Somewhere there is an informative and accessible book about the end of paper money and coins, but it is not this book. The author is glib and doesn't seriously take into account any criticism of non-physical forms of money. He has a belief and idea in mind and goes on and on about it. He has a bit of stunt non-fiction (he goes without using money but rarely mentions this experiment), a travelogue (he visits Icelend, London, and Hawaii), and a bit of history.

The biggest problem is that he also i
Brett Matthews
David Wolman's book is definitely not worth reading. The first problem is painfully basic: he is not arguing for the end of money at all, just the end of paper money (that is,cash), via a transformation into digital money. Money has been with us for many thousands of years, at least since the emergence of tokens in Mesopotamia. Paper money is a relative newcomer in the story of how humans have stored and exchanged value -- a product of the rise of mass literacy triggered by Gutenberg.

Even his a
Let me begin by an amazing coincidence. Just as I finished the book today (Oct 25, 14), I read this news item in a leading Indian newspaper “Sweden goes cashless: A news report shows that four out of every five purchases in Sweden are paoid for electronically or by card.. The local reports that Swedes are using electronic payment 260 times per person per year. Electronic payments as Swish are bypassing the ATM for cash. While going cash free comes with an increase in security cost, its more than ...more
Pretty simple. You must be some sort of religious wacko fringe nutjob (or a criminal) if you think a cashless society is the end of freedom. Sadly so few have a firm grasp of the entirety of human history that they don't even realize that our way of life today, this military industrial complex, is a very new thing and his argument holds no water. The majority of human history was spent as hunters/gatherers where all monetary systems were irrelevant. This becomes new information to readers along ...more
Iván Braga
El tema del libro, la progresiva desaparición del dinero físico y su reemplazo por dinero digital,es interesante y claramente muy vigente. El autor aborda la problemática del dinero físico y sus inconvenientes, mostrando a través de distintos casos y experiencias, la migración que estamos viviendo hacia un dinero electrónico. El libro también recoge las barreras para que este proceso avance con mayor rapidez y los costos que implica el seguir usando el dinero físico, sobre todo para los más pobr ...more
Jordan Buckley
Jaunty, engaging, readable overview by a journalist exploring what cash is, where it came from, its strengths and weaknesses, how it is used around the world by governments and people, and various ideas about its future.

The author admits that he looks forward to a cashless future, but I was hoping for a little more on what that might look like (NFC payments, cryptocurrency like Bitcoin/Litecoin, etc.). Instead, the book was more focused on cash and its demise than what will come after. Still ov
Nancy Wu
I found this book well-written and amusing but the main thesis is not new to me. I did learn a few things for example, I did not know that it was illegal to destroy national currency:

...burning banknotes would violate the section of Title 18 of the U.S. Code prohibiting “mutilation of national bank obligations.” You may be able to marshal a free-speech defense...

I've also never considered the opinion from the opposing camp, in favor of alternative currencies, that alternative money can potenti
In my continuing quest to read more non-ficiton, I am finding that the more I read it, the more I want more. Hmmm. This one is more of an extended personal essay written by a guy with political leanings that veer left. He takes the interesting idea of going without cash for an entire year, and then picks a couple of points to investigate more deeply. As someone who uses that debit card for smaller and smaller purchases, and who thinks it looks cool to point the phone to share information, I can ...more
Boris Limpopo
Wolman, David (2012). The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society. Boston: Da Capo Press. 2012. ISBN 9780306819469. Pagine 240. 12,83

Una delle prime cose da dire su questo libro, è che il titolo è un po’ fuorviante. Non si dovrebbe chiamare The End of Money, ma The End of Cash – Non La fine del denaro, ma La fine del contante: questo è quello che l’autore ha fatto (con successo quasi totale) per un anno intero, e questo è il tema che sviluppa
Is cash over? David Wolman would clearly like it to be for hygiene reasons if nothing else. The much remarked mis-title coveres a meditation on the history of both money and cash and the possibility that cash is coming to an end as a useful technology. That, it turns out, is only a tiny part of it. From those who believe abandoning paper money is a sin to those who see it as only fit for criminal activities the meanings people place on cash are diverse to put it mildly. It is clear that cash is ...more
Jonathan Lu
Outstanding book about the future of hard currency, very well written and laden with dryly humorous remarks that keeps it entertaining and all the while wholly educational. Prior to picking up this book, I was very much a supporter of eliminating hard currency as a means of financial exchange tender for reasons of efficiency and reducing corruption/criminality. Wolman has now convinced me of another 7 or 8 reasons as to why this is a good idea. Of course the big question is the how replace with ...more
Wolman does a great job of presenting in detail all of the numerous pitfalls and problems surrounding cash, but does little, if anything, to offer any viable alternatives or solutions. True, cash in and of itself is worthless, but it is the guarantee of the government that it does have worth, and our faith in that promise that gives it any value... Admittedly, Wolman has some other valid and compelling arguments against cash. Cash is certainly costly to produce and distribute, as well as prone t ...more
Alisha Mcfarland
I liked the wide and balanced approach he took in arranging the chapters - especially starting with what I perceived to be an extreme religious idea that the changes in our relationship with money is the work of the Devil - hadn't thought of that one before. Despite my initial confusion and concern that this book might not be what I thought, Mr. Wolman provides a unique combination and description of the different people and factors that shaped and are shaping our relationship with physical mone ...more
Liked the book. Having worked in banking for almost 20 years, I understand the costs of physically manufacturing cash vs. electronic financial transactions. Making coins and paper money isn't worth the actual value they're assigned, especially coins. Furthermore, the effect of cash on the poor enslaves them to it, while those who have money least use cash. However, not everyone is on board with the idea of a cashless society, even though the actual cash in circulation of any country in the world ...more
Mr. Wolman tries (and fails) to not use physical currency for a whole year. In the process he does a whirlwind tour, visiting people in Georgia (USA) who see electronic currency as sign of evil, people in Reykjavík (who suddenly do not want to repay money borrowed), looks into how and by whom money is being counterfeit (including the North Korean regime) and how governments defend against encroaching their own territory of minting money (see the Liberty Dollar saga), financing of narco and terro ...more
I felt, a great deal of the time, that I was being spoken down to.

About the book itself. There is no new information here and not presented in a very sympathetic and compassionate manner--really takes the eccentrics to task.

Other than this it was a pretty typical effort -- not really a very good primer on the subject.

Some may enjoy the author's flip tone, but I felt uncomfortable and irritated by if a speaker were clearing their throat every few works.
Asher Wen
Great overview of the arguments for and against cash and the emerging technologies that are looking to replace it. The book was written in an investigative matter that helped to shed light without being as heavy as I thought it would be. Brings clarity to recent developments such as mobile money, Apple Pay, etc.
Maria E
Working in the financial sector, this book title grabbed me and then the concept and writing style kept me. I can't agree with everything Wolman says, he's right, I do like to have anonymity in some transactions and I occasionally think about how dirty and germy money is, but I don't have his aversion to touching it.

I knew that merchants were charged for electronic transactions and I knew they were picking it up somewhere, it just never occured to me that it would be in the cash prices for thin
This book was pretty instructive... This listener learned about alot of different issues/subjects re: $$$$$$/cold, hard cash...& other alternative forms of money. Issues surrounding foreign countries, counterfeiting, the International Monetary System & the global economy, debt, the actual moneymaking process, 'dirty' money (as in germs!), & the future of money (& its forms.) There really was alot to take in, & I must admit that I might learn alot more by listening to it a 2nd ...more
Richard Thompson
No matter how many books I read about money, in the end, it all looks like voodoo, religion, smoke and mirrors...

This book doesn't make it make sense, but it presents some interesting ideas about the role of cash money in the scheme of things. Mostly, the author thinks that cash money is a bad idea and that the time is coming when most of our financial transactions will be handled electronically. Cash money costs a lot to create, transport, count, store. Cash money is much more useful to crimina
Here is my comment in my Spanish Blog:
Well; I thought that this book was about the concept of money as a vehicle to development and freedom but also to doom and slavery; but I found a little essay on how cash is filthy and how we should eradicate it altogether. This author is very entertaining; and takes you to different places in the world where you can see how people live without cash. However; I was looking for some deeper analysis on the whole concept
This book feels like a bunch of Wired magazine articles. That's basically what it is.

A fun overview, but a lot more about personalities than about technology or economics.
Interesting and an entertaining, easy-read. I appreciated the detailed references to give a starting point to find out more about some of the topics that were briefly mentioned.
I never realized how much society depends on money - now. The author tried to go a year without using cash - and it almost worked. Even though he predicts that someday all transactions could be done with your phone, it hasn't happened yet.

He told me some things I already knew (98% of money is contaminated with heroine) and some things I didn't (most large currency bills are used almost exclusively for money laundering or the drug trade).

Phone banking has made it possible for Indians in remote
Scott Carpinteri
This book was..... okay.

Kinda disappointed because I saw the author speak at a conference and he was quite engaging. However, this book, seemed like he started with a conclusion and tried to back-fill reasons why the end of money (mostly cash) was eminent. Frankly, as a person who also dislikes cash I was expecting some solid research and arguments to support the cause. Sadly, the book was largely anecdotal and "the case" didn't seem to build, but rather meandered.

Sorry for the negative review
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David Wolman is a contributing editor at WIRED and MATTER, and the author, most recently, of Firsthand: A Decade of Reportage.

He has also written for such publications as the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Nature, and Outside. His long-form feature about Egypt’s 2011 uprising was a finalist for a 2012 National Magazine Award for reporting, and his profile of a curr
More about David Wolman...
Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling A Left Hand Turn Around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw The Instigators Firsthand TURNING THE TIDES 洪水から国を守る「200年計画」(WIRED Single Stories 009) (Japanese Edition)

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