So What’s the Deal With Bitcoins? A Review of Digital Gold

May 25, 2015 History, non-fiction, Science 12 ★★★★

So What’s the Deal With Bitcoins? A Review of Digital GoldTitle: Digital Gold
Author: Nathaniel Popper
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: Like all my favorite narrative nonfiction, this book told a great story about fascinating people while teaching me something new.

If you’re like me before reading this book, you’ve heard of the digital money called Bitcoin only when it’s gotten negative press. Honestly, after hearing about many people losing the money they’d invested in Bitcoins, I thought this experiment was dead. I was still fascinated to learn about it though and especially about the people behind Bitcoin. As the subtitle indicates, this group included a wide variety of people, from millionaires to social revolutionaries, from hackers to drug dealers. Like most narrative nonfiction I love, it was the way the author told these people’s stories that made this a great read for me.

The author had interviewed many of the people involved in the creation of Bitcoin. This meant that he was able to share direct quotes and snippets of their personal communication. I felt that he also presented the many different views on Bitcoin and its possible uses in an unbiased way. I particularly loved the variety of people involved in Bitcoin. Learning about them meant learning about many different subcultures and careers that I previously knew nothing about. I was also impressed by the way the author explained the technology behind Bitcoin. Within the text, he presented the fewest technical details necessary for the story to make sense. These bits were all explained very clearly and referred readers to the appendix for more, equally well explained, technical information.

For those of you who are curious, it turns out that not only is Bitcoin alive and well, Bitcoins are  currently accepted by a number of retailers. The Bitcoin currency has two main advantages: Bitcoins can be transferred anonymously and they don’t need to go through banks, making even international money transfers fast and free. After reading Digital Gold, I see a few downsides to the currency as well. First, like every other currency, the wealthy are likely to gain wealth the fastest. Many wealthy individuals were the first investors in Bitcoin, concentrating the wealth in a few hands, and today, special hardware is required to earn new bitcoins. Secondly, the mining (computational work done to create new Bitcoins) has been made artificially more difficult to limit the rate at which Bitcoins are created. This means a lot of electricity and computing power that could be used to do useful scientific work are being wasted. Personally, I don’t want to support that and will probably never invest in Bitcoins, but whatever your stance on the currency, it’s origin story is an interesting one.

What’s your favorite thing about narrative nonfiction? Are there any books in this genre that you’d particularly recommend?

12 Responses to “So What’s the Deal With Bitcoins? A Review of Digital Gold”

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, I saw that and was surprised too! I was also really surprised by just how many retailers take bitcoins, even if many of them are small companies. It was a very interesting read 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      That’s a good question! It seems like it could be, but I don’t know the answer, so I’m going to go google about it now 🙂

  1. Lindsey

    That sounds really interesting. I always appreciate authors who can convey scientific information for those of us who don’t speak science!

    • DoingDewey

      Me too! If an author is writing about science outside of my comfort zone, it’s very helpful, but I also appreciate authors who explain things I understand in simple ways so I can learn how to explain them clearly too.

  2. Jennine G.

    My favorite thing, like you said, is when the author is able to put the stories together in a way that makes it fun to read and learn…without even knowing you are!

    • DoingDewey

      It’s so wonderful! I think this is part of the reason historical fiction has become one of my favorite genres too 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I felt the same way! This book made me understand the idea a bit better, but it still didn’t make me want to invest myself.

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