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The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order Hardcover – January 27, 2015

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Vigna and Casey's thorough, timely and colorful book is a rewarding place to learn it all. (The New York Times Book Review)

For any book on bitcoin to be worth reading, it has to delve further: into the crypto-currency's ideological and technical roots, for instance, or what it adds to the narrative of money, or even what its economic and political impact may be. The currency's...underlying technology provides plenty of intellectual fodder-and is unlikely to go away. So there is plenty to write about if you are serious. Paul Vigna and Michael Casey, two journalists at the Wall Street Journal, are certainly serious. (The Economist)

[Vigna and Casey] have produced more than a bitcoin 101: their [book] is a smarter, more holistic take on not just bitcoin, but the potential of all digital currencies to change the way we send each other money. (Fortune)

This book by @mikejcasey and @paulvigna is a new must-read on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency! (Marc Andreessen (@pmarca))

To their ample credit, Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, resist the common temptations to hype their trendy subject. They've written a reported explainer that patiently documents bitcoin's rise, acknowledges its flaws and highlights its promise. Smart and conscientious, The Age of Cryptocurrency is the most thorough and readable account of the short life of this controversial currency. (The Washington Post)

This book should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in digital currency or the capabilities of the blockchain. (Bitcoin Magazine)

If you are baffled by Bitcoin and bemused by blockchains then The Age of Cryptocurrency... includes everything you could possibly want to know about cryptocurrencies, without the need for being either a skilled mathematician or uber-geek computer engineer. (Global Finance Magazine)

Thorough, multidisciplinary approach to the topic, including a fascinating examination of the origin of money... newcomers will gain a better understanding of the revolutionary potential of digital currency...And the explication of the non-currency applications of the concepts behind Bitcoin--such as tamper-proof records of verified information will be valuable to any reader. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Anyone who doubts that bitcoin and its imitators are at the early stage of altering fundamentally the global payments system--if not the nature of money itself--will find it difficult to resist Michael Casey and Paul Vigna's admirably clear and judicious account. If the word 'blockchain' makes you want to call a plumber, or if you think Satoshi is some kind of raw fish, you need to read The Age of Cryptocurrency today. If you're already a bit-convert, you'll still learn a lot. (Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money)

Anyone who views bitcoin as a voodoo concept must read this totally comprehensible narrative outlining the history of money and how bitcoin might become a new and better currency. For those confused by bitcoin concepts, this clearheaded and readable book sets forth credible reasons why bitcoin might or might not be an evolving economic miracle. (Arthur Levitt, 25th Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission)

An invaluable book: a fascinating field guide to the phenomenon in which three of the most powerful forces shaping our world today--the reform of finance, technological innovation, and the rejection of traditional politics--meet. (Felix Martin, author of Money: The Unauthorized Biography)

The Age of Cryptocurrency not only demystifies and explains bitcoin, but also shows where it fits into the cultural zeitgeist and where it's pointed, and what that may mean for our financial system. (John Mauldin, New York Times bestselling author of Endgame)

The thought-provoking Age of Cryptocurrency was a pleasure to read. The authors have successfully demystified cryptocurrencies like bitcoin so that even a traditionalist like myself can understand them and embrace their potential. And the references to money were so spot-on, they even taught this old dog some new tricks. (Edmund C. Moy, 38th Director of the United States Mint, 2006-2011)

Vigna and Casey unlock the mysteries of cryptocurrencies and their implications for the future of financial transactions in an engaging, lucid, and thought-provoking account. The technological developments described in this book will someday affect every one of us and I can think of no better guide to what the future holds. (Eswar Prasad, author of The Dollar Trap)

Even to a bitcoin skeptic like myself, Vigna and Casey's book is a fascinating journey into the cast of characters and oddballs behind the movement into the digital currency realm. (Barry Ritholtz, CIO, Ritholtz Wealth Management)

Vigna and Casey are cautious, though enthusiastic guides to this strange new world. Being Wall Street Journal reporters, they know how to dig beneath the surface and they also know how to write. The book is full of fascinating stories, from the origins of money to the future of decentralised commerce, from the Mt Gox meltdown to the Silk Road bust. (Matt Ridley Times of London)

[I]n...their fascinating book on the topic, Wall Street Journal columnists Paul Vigna and Michael Casey set out to convince readers that bitcoin is not only going straight, but has the potential to change the world. (Literary Review)

[T]he book is extremely well written, and easy to understand. In a nutshell, it narrates the chronology of Bitcoin's evolution with impeccable precision. It is free of hype, while not being shy in pinning the important role that cryptocurrencies will play in our future. (William Mougayar, Venture Advisor)

Bitcoin and Bitchain (sic) are likely to revolutionize money...The book to read on this topic is The Age of Cryptocurrency by Vigna and Casey two Wall Street Journal financial journalists. (Rishad Tobbacowala)

This sober yet exciting account of cryptocurrency, told by two very smart and objective reporters, is exactly the way to introduce yourself, or a sophisticated newbie you know, to the technology's revolutionary potential. I recommend you check it out. (Jerry Brito, Executive Director, Coin Center)

About the Author

MICHAEL J. CASEY writes for The Wall Street Journal, covering global finance in his "Horizons" column. He is a frequent contributor to the Journal's MoneyBeat blog and co-authors the daily "BitBeat" with Paul Vigna. He is the host of the book-themed video series "WSJ Afterword" and a frequent guest on and host of "The News Hub" and "MoneyBeat." His podcast on world economic affairs is forthcoming. Casey has written for such publications as Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the author of two books: Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image (Vintage, 2009), one of Michiko Kakutani's "best books of 2009," and The Unfair Trade: How Our Broken Financial System Destroys the Middle Class (Crown, 2012).

PAUL VIGNA is a markets reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering equities and the economy. He is a columnist and anchor for MoneyBeat. Previously a writer and editor of the MarketTalk column in DowJones Newswires, he has been a guest on the Fox Business Network, CNN, the BBC, and the John Batchelor radio show. He has been interviewed by Bitcoin magazine and appeared on the Bitcoins & Gravy podcast, and boasts a collective 20 years of journalism experience.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250065631
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250065636
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
The authors of this book are reporters, and as a piece of reportage it is broad, deep, and well-balanced. They take you through the history of bitcoin, the alternatives to bitcoin, all the technology behind bitcoin, and extended uses for this disruptive technology which could have wide implications throughout society. They provide a broad discussion of the projects underway in 2014 to employ bitcoin.

If the book has one shortcoming, it does not define how it all works quite precisely enough for a techie. The reader of this review may find it useful to mix my point of view with that of the book itself in trying to envision the mechanics.

The casual reader is somewhat familiar with the bitcoin phenomenon. It appears to have been started by a single idiosyncratic individual calling himself Satoshi Nakamoto but whose identity remains unknown and who dropped out of sight some three years ago. What this gifted technician did was to envision the architecture of an entire system, implement that system, find a group of disciples, fanatics if you will, to carry it on, and then quietly disappear. This is truly the stuff of science fiction

The thing that he invented is the thing that is most difficult to describe. Here I go in my own words, rearranging some thoughts from these authors.

The first question is what a currency is. We are familiar with fiat currencies such as the dollar the euro and the yen. We are familiar with the fact that these have all evolved from metallic representations, such as silver dollars and $20 gold pieces, to paper certificates indicating that metal was once held in storage to back them up, to fiat currencies which have nothing whatsoever behind them. The dollar today is an artificial construction, a unit of exchange.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Spencer on March 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The Age of Cryptocurrency makes a fundamental mistake. It assumes - in the title no less - that we live in the Age of Cryptocurrency when obviously that's yet an open question.

What I liked:
- Their explanation of bitcoin is intuitive (ch. 4).
- I learned stuff about early proto-cryptocurrencies (ch. 2).

What I didn't:
- They give Bitcoin an easy pass. For example, Chapter 7 has lots about venture capital raised but nearly nothing on capturing market share much less about actual business operations.
- It's a book about digital money, they spend two pages discussing buying coffee from Starbucks, and yet they don't mention how Starbucks has one of the largest digital payment services.
- Nor is there discussion of Square or Google Wallet, why those services have struggled, and why Bitcoin may be able to succeed in comparison.
- In Chapter 8, on mobile payment services in Africa, they conflate the expensive fees charged by international remittance services with the very low fees charged in domestic transfers. That remittance services may be expensive due to regulation and fundamental costs isn't discussed.
- It's telling that while inflation and saving are in the index, deflation and inequality aren't. When discussing the future of money, it merely broadcasts the tropes you've read on /r/bitcoin.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Athan on April 29, 2015
Format: Hardcover
This is a tremendous introduction to Bitcoin. If you are not technically minded, it's as good as you could possibly hope for.

On the other hand, if you are a bit of a technophile, perhaps you may want to look for the fine detail somewhere else.

First comes all the necessary background. You get a thorough introduction on what money is, or rather what it is that that turns something into money, you get an introduction to the biosphere out of which Bitcoin sprung, including a long list of its predecessors, and that part of the book is rounded up by a brief history of the "genesis" of Bitcoin itself.

Next comes an explanation of the Blockchain. Problem #1 with digital money is "how do I know this money is good money" and problem #2 is "how do I know that you are not presenting this good money twice at the same time to make two purchases." The Blockchain is a technology that puts together four pre-existing technologies in an inventive way, to incentivise independent agents to solve these two problems:

1. Public-key encryption
2. The hash
3. The peer-to-peer network of "nodes"
4. Proof of work

Feel free to skip if you know / to set me right if I've understood it wrong -it's not all there in the book and I've had to fill in the blanks myself by spending time on the Internet

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First, public-key encryption:

This is a fantastic new way to write coded messages. The simplest one, RSA, works out as follows:

1. Take two prime numbers and multiply them with one another 3 x 23 = 69
2.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RL Willard on January 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The Age of Cryptocurrency is the seminal guide to Bitcoin and digital currencies, especially for the mainstream audience. It is concise, yet penetrating and gives more than a fair and satisfying view of the genesis, players and pros v. cons inherent the space. As someone who lives this industry and talks about it on a national level, I highly recommend it for anyone seeking to acclimate and educate themselves on this socially transformative issue.
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