Books go to eReaders. Magazines go to the web. Dollar bills to your cell phones.
The debate of the death of printing has existed since lithography dominated the industry in 1796. The strongest argument, coinciding with the New Media/Social Media movement, deals with the integration of real-time technology and moving print into the archiving world. Even so, the Internet has forced print based companies, Newspapers for instance, to re-think their business model. The debate for print’s demise, which was referenced here in 2007, has shed light on a new face: currency.
Since the founding days in the United States, currency has existed in a multitude of media—most popularly the coin and paper dollar. In the 1920’s the credit card, originally printed on paper card stock then sheet metal, because a popular use of currency. In fact, today about 20 billion credit cards—in plastic form, sometimes with internal memory chips)—are produced each year.
While a credit card digitized information on a tangible media, the first step in the full digitalization of currency came about in 1998 when PayPal was founded. After about four years, the widely used auction web site, eBay, acquired PayPal giving it the credibility and ease that it is known for today. This was the first “standard” in moving currency between people and businesses.
Today, however, there is a new service in BETA testing called, Venmo. Building on the PayPal concept, these services allows you to quickly and easily transfer money to a friend or business via SMS (text message). Although this may not be a long-term company, it does pose an interesting question. Are we getting too digital? Are we leaving ourselves too open to hackers or digital corruption? Does tangible currency provide a real sense of value? Will we spend too freely if it is that easy? If the currency move did go digital, would it cut down on corruption and illegal activity by providing a “paper trail”? And, most importantly, does this mean a stripper would have your cell phone number?