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Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot Hardcover – 31 Jul 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (31 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015351
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,526,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


The New York Post July 16, 2006 Sunday --New York Post

About the Author

About the author: Julian Dibbell s writing has appeared in Details, Spin, Harper s, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Le Monde, Village Voice and Time. In the 2002-2004 academic year, he was a visiting fellow at Stanford Law School s Center for Internet and Society. He is the author of My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World, and is currently a contributing editor for Wired magazine. He lives with his wife and daughter in Indiana, USA.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
OK, so here's the idea. The author - a journalist - sets himself a target to report to the tax authorities that virtual trading through a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) is his main source of income in his next tax return.

By turns laugh-out loud funny and heart-rendingly sad, the book then traces his year long challenge. The laughter, the ups and downs, the cycles of deep joy at discovering a new market opportunity, and darkest despair as game designers close yet another profitable loophole or rivals find a way to frustrate him.

It's hard to say whether real life provides the context for his online trading or online life sets the context for the events of hie real life, but either way the book is enjoyable. It's well written (as you'd expect prom a professional writer), engaging, and it keeps you turning the pages, particularly as the tax filing deadline approaches.

Play Money raises many questions about the morality of life online and the social consequences of devoting yourself to a world where trade is pretty much 24/7. But at the end of the day I had to wonder what I had learnt from it, and the answer was: not a lot.

So by all means read this if you're a fan of online environments like Ultima Online and Second Life. But don't expect to read it and make millions (of dollars or gold pieces).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Julian Dibbell's first book (My Tiny Life) was one of the first serious treatments I ever saw about issues of ethics and legality in virtual worlds, and the charming way in which it was written made it a worthy read. When I saw that he had decided to tackle the link between virtual and real assets, and especially the 'seedy underbelly' of gold trading in virtual economies, I decided he was likely to make an interesting case whatever he wanted to say. I wasn't wrong - Julian Dibbell is an entertaining writer, and he tells his story with wit and conviction. While I abhor the practises that he engaged in (as someone involved in running a (much smaller) virtual world, I have a markedly different view of the implications of his actions), I was still drawn into the narrative and even, bizarrely, rooting for him towards the end.

The link between virtual and concrete assets is an issue that is going to become important before too much more time has passed, and that fact alone makes this a timely, if not important, addition to the literature on the subject.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x91fb7264) out of 5 stars 28 reviews
55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
By Michael Phipps - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is well-written (mostly) and a good look at an interesting subject. However, the author seems not to trust his own subject, since he constantly moves away from the interesting part of the book (the story of how the strange market in imaginary goods works) in order to pad the book out with boring digressions on watching his daughter play, or even more boring half-baked essays on What It All Means (no surprise that the author is a contributor to Wired magazine.) Still, if you read the reporting parts, which are good, and skip over the self-indulgent, meandering attempts at philosophy, which are not, you'll learn a lot and enjoy yourself.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91fc2cfc) out of 5 stars Fabulous Writing 14 July 2006
By Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Julian Dibbell's Play Money is a fantastic contribution to the literature on MMORPGs. Dibbell's My Tiny Life was the book that inspired Larry Lessig to get interested in cyberlaw. Play Money is like My Tiny Life in a fermented form -- a little more mature, a little more powerful, a lot more complicated.

It is set in a fiction that is currently owned by the Microsoft of the games world: Electronic Arts. Play Money starts with Dibbell magically blasting lizard men, then having himself blasted by a superior magician, who insults him on the poor quality of the items on his avatar's corpse and kills his horse out of spite. Then we're off to Tijuana, in search of virtual sweatshops. The lyricism and wit of My Tiny Life is there, but the bloom is off the virtual rose, so to speak, and real violence, theft, duplicity are lurking constantly below the surface of the fiction.

Why? Because it is a book about commerce, mostly, and a peculiar type of black market that Dibbell got to know rather well. Ultima Online's fanciful world of magicians, castles, and knights in armor is the home of very real economies that have emerged in virtual property. And from Dibbell's description, the main movement in the economy is fueled by software exploits and botting.

Dibbell has to struggle with the gears of this trade, because he's really captivated by the fiction, fascinated by the line created between play and work, and curious about the implications of virtual sweatshops for Marxist theory. He has a philosophical bent, but the path of virtual business leads inexorably to the sweatshops in Tijuana and their equivalents: he finds himself becoming ever more cozy with the hackers who engage in something with roughly the same ethical valance as ticket scalping.

What is most amazing about the book, I think, is that he manages to pull off this combination of fantasy, tawdriness, and philosophy with a true page-turner. The scope is huge, but the pace is brisk -- we're alternatively striking out into ludological theory, recounting the mafia-type threats of competing virtual economy hackers, praising the wifi at Flying J truckstops, and recounting how his avatar watered the plants on the roof of his castle in Britannia while his good friend Radny's tailoring scissors went snip-snip-snip downstairs. It's hard to keep track of where the fantasy in this book begins and ends. At a certain point, you start to wonder if it matters.

Play Money is worth reading just to learn about the details of the real-money trade. But it is Dibbell's wonderful knack for words and stories that makes the book sing.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9290af34) out of 5 stars Making Hay 30 Aug. 2006
By Jane Tompkins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Play money is a fantastic read. It pulls you into its tale of Internet adventure and doesn't let go until the final word. I loved its refusal to separate the author's exploration of internet games, and his meditation on the economies they've generated, from the events of his off-line life -- child care, depresssion, marital break-up. Like a teenager, he starts out killing lizardmen in the fabulous realm of Ultima Online and ends up selling enchanted swords, pieces of gold, and miraculous suits of armor for a living. A real living, not a virtual one. (Is this play or is it work is the question.) The race to see if he can meet a deadline proving that he can earn more selling magic weapons and gold pieces than he can at his day job keeps the pages turning, and the painful -- and sometimes joyful -- unfolding of events in his actual life is riveting.

The book is an elegy to the world of play we lost when adulthood got us, a critique of a workaholic culture so preoccupied with its own games -- er, goals -- that it can't see the value in play, and a love song to fatherhood. And, it's like, totally cool, dude, what can I say?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91fc2f84) out of 5 stars Strange new worlds...... 11 July 2006
By Glenn Hendler - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At one level, "Play Money" is one person's story of getting immersed in a weird little subset of the online world. "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games" are basically really huge, really complicated, and apparently really engaging versions of Dungeons and Dragons. Dibbell provides a clear, fun, personal account of his experiences in these games, and tells the story of his attempts to make a real living selling virtual products that are much in demand in these online worlds.

But he's not just looking for gold here, real or virtual. He's after answers to big questions. What makes something valuable? What is a market? What is an economy? What kinds of abstractions are we exchanging when we buy a material object, or a service, or a ticket to a movie, and put it on a credit card? In a world where the price of something as simultaneously abstract and material as "pork belly futures" is announced on the radio (in the Midwest, at least), is it really all that odd to put up a virtual store in a fictional place called Brittania, where you sell virtual swords? Is that store any more fictional or real than e-Bay, or than the one Dibbell puts up outside the game world, where he charges real money for these imaginary items?

"Play Money" ponders these big questions, but it isn't all Marx and Baudrillard. It's a gripping and funny and sometimes even poignant story, told in a conversational style that's a breeze to read. Dibbell is a great guide through this world, for a newbie like me, because he stops to explain the way things work--the intricacies of the games, of course, but also the arcana of economics and the complexities of computer science--in ways that are clear without ever seeming dumbed down. I've never learned so much from such a page-turner.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91fc2dbc) out of 5 stars Fascinating account 7 July 2006
By A reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Entire parallel economies exist in online virtual worlds, and they can be quite addictive to play in. Dibbell spent most of his time in Ultima Online, a sword and sorcery MMOG, but sometimes, it seems, the real cloak and dagger activity isn't happening in the game, but behind the scenes, where quasi-criminals devised ingenious cheats to raise game money, which they then sold on eBay, possibly even running Chinese and Tijuana sweatshops on the side where workers were employed to level up and generate even more game money. Even though I'd spent a lot of time in these worlds, Dibbell raised a lot of interesting questions, and conjectured a world where work is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from play.
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