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In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives | [Steven Levy]

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Don't be evil. That's Google's official motto. But what's really going on behind that simple little search box? Wired's Steven Levy guides us through a history of the rise of the internet, the development of complicated search algorithms, and, in many ways, a who's who of Silicon Valley — all beautifully narrated by L.J. Ganser.

What started as two geeks obsessed with improving internet search engines rapidly ballooned into a company eager to gobble up other useful startups (Keyhole Inc., YouTube, Picassa) as well as larger, more obviously valuable companies (most notably the marketing goliath, DoubleClick). Google's strategy has also been a game-changer in regards to the way we use data and cloud computing. Thanks to its highly lucrative AdWords and AdSense programs, the company exploded the way people think about the internet and the way people think about making money on the internet.

In the Plex gives listeners a real idea of what it's like to exist within the company's quirky culture. And Ganser knows when to keep it serious, but that doesn't stop him from adding just the right amount of snark to the “like” and “um”-ridden quotations from various engineer types. This edition also includes a fascinating interview between the author and early hire Marissa Mayer, the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list.

Levy dedicates a large section of the book to Google's controversial actions in China, the ultimate test of the company's “don't be evil” philosophy. Here, In the Plex takes an unexpected turn from company profile to a technology coming-of-age story for notorious “founder kids” Larry Page and Sergey Brin. How does “don't be evil” play out in a real world that is sometimes, well, evil? Results are mixed.

In addition to China, Levy touches on some of Google's failures, flubs, and flops, like the company's book scanning project and its development of Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, he seems to miss the point when he makes excuses for their inability to compete in the social space. It seems particularly obvious why a corporation completely run by data-obsessed engineers would have trouble making inroads in the world of social media, which is by nature more organic and subtle.

From the early days as a gonzo-style startup to the massive corporate giant that has quickly integrated itself into almost everything we do, this is an essential history of Google. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google's earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow (until Google's IPO, nobody other than Google management had any idea how lucrative the company's ad business was), Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google's success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After it's unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers with free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? It stumbled badly in China. And now, with its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be "evil" still compete?

No other book has turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.

This edition of In the Plex includes an exclusive interview with Google's Marissa Mayer, one of the company's earliest hires and most visible executives, as well as the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list. She provides a high-level insider's perspective on the company's life story, its unique hiring practices, its new social networking initiative, and more.

©2011 Steven Levy (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Thoroughly versed in technology reporting, Wired senior writer Levy deliberates at great length about online behemoth Google and creatively documents the company’s genesis from a 'feisty start-up to a market-dominating giant'.... Though the author offers plenty of well-known information, it’s his catbird-seat vantage point that really gets to the good stuff. Outstanding reportage delivered in the upbeat, informative fashion for which Levy is well known." (Kirkus Reviews)

"The book, a wide-ranging history of the company from start-up to behemoth, sheds light on the biggest threats Google faces today, from the Chinese government to Facebook and privacy critics." (The New York Times)

“With a commanding voice, L.J. Ganser narrates this history and exploration of Google….Ganser’s stern voice is clear and moves through the text with determination.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (3392 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    S.Palan 02-06-12
    S.Palan 02-06-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good but NOT Great"
    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Salar Kamangar: The Man who does not crave attention, does his job well, and well, knows the secret to success.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Gu Ge : Google's Chinese name


    Any additional comments?

    The story is good, but the author went too much in details where not needed and brushed the topics which could have used some more details.

    Also the author jumped a lot back and forth in time, making it a bit difficult to sometimes get a good grip of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kai Singapore, Singapore 02-05-12
    Kai Singapore, Singapore 02-05-12

    Tech Reader

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Touching facts"
    Would you listen to In the Plex again? Why?

    Yes, some theories or conclusions are so general, that I feel inspired by them.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I like the indepth revealing of the real google. How large it actually is, not just in market share but also in leading culture revolution and technique improving.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The part about Google.cn(google china office). As a chinese, that chapter solves plenty of questions I had have, such as why google entered china, why google exits, and what's under the glory report of google china office.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, this book is too long for one sitting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon MANASSAS, VA, United States 02-02-12
    Jon MANASSAS, VA, United States 02-02-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    27
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Decent, but nothing special"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Time was well spent because it lets me drift into a story while I am stuck in traffic


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Nothing surprising or shocking, just a google timeline


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Knutsson Northern California 01-07-12
    K. Knutsson Northern California 01-07-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    354
    11
    FOLLOWERS
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    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I expected more..."
    Any additional comments?

    I think the author was blinded by admiration of the

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane MADISON, WI, United States 01-05-12
    Jane MADISON, WI, United States 01-05-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    109
    24
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    0
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    Story
    "Very Interesting & Current"

    Not sure I would enjoy this as it's not my typical fare, but it was on sale. I have found this story of google to be most fascinating. Even though it is 20 hours, I have not been bored and the topic is so relevant to the tools I use in my everyday life. Chrome, maps, calendar - all part of my life and now I know where they came from & how they got here. So much of google has been run right and creativity has run rampant. I would highly recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dona Hamilton, Australia 01-02-12
    Dona Hamilton, Australia 01-02-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    122
    26
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Go Google!"

    If I hadn't read such good reviews about this book I probably wouldn't have chosen it to read, but I am so glad I did. Ganser was a terrific reader and even though some of the info went over my head and I zoned out, what I did learn about Google was great. While I was cooking dinner, I had the book on speakers and my son, who is a computer programmer, started listening to it. He got right into it and now wants to listen to the whole book. It is a book that I would go back and read again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    August West CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 12-23-11
    August West CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 12-23-11 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Loved learning about their climb to the top!"

    Being in the SEO world, to say Google is everything is an understatement. The story of Google's rise to the top is a great one. I also really liked the not-so-good stories of Google and how some of their decisions eventually came back to haunt them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Acworth, GA, United States 12-22-11
    David Acworth, GA, United States 12-22-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Even more than you want to know about Google"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book to someone who is as infatuated with Google as I am. I would not recommend this book to the average reader or Googler as it is way more detailed than the average person cares to know. For me, it was exciting and enlightening to hear of the inner workings of the company and it's people.


    What does L. J. Ganser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't think Ganser brought anything to the story. I'm not sure I would have ever sat down and read the book, but it was an easy listen while doing other things (driving, biking, etc). There are not really any characters to


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely not. I really needed a break after about an hour or so. It is not a nail biting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is more of an informative reading full of information to digest as you go along.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Robinson Lees Summit, MO, United States 12-22-11
    K. Robinson Lees Summit, MO, United States 12-22-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Fun Book to Listen To"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I HAVE recommended this book to friends. They would hear me laughing as I heard stories about the early days and I would re-tell them the best I could until I just said


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Plex?

    The story of the


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, I enjoyed listening to it over several sittings. In on sitting, I think it might be too much to fully appreciate and enjoy.


    Any additional comments?

    A great story, fun tales, and very good value for the book. I'm VERY glad I got this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Phoenix, AZ, United States 12-20-11
    Brian Phoenix, AZ, United States 12-20-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Comprehensive story of how google began"
    If you could sum up In the Plex in three words, what would they be?

    Do no evil. The issue is sticking to your own laws. As the company grows... the companies focus will face hard challenges from investors.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Mrs
    Wirral, United Kingdom
    3/5/12
    Overall
    "Great listen"

    This is a good listen if you’re interested in Google and Silicon Valley in general. A good accompaniment to Jobs autobiography I think.

    The narrator took a bit to get used to but in the end I found it easy to listen to him.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Carrie
    Tideswell, UK
    3/31/13
    Overall
    "Lots of lessons for young entrepreneurs"

    I loved this book. It showed how seemingly small decisions made when starting up a company can shape its whole culture and direction. And how this is challenged when they try to become a 'big' company. Well researched, and excellent narration. Recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Erika
    Redhill, United Kingdom
    1/25/13
    Overall
    "Information giant that changed the world"

    I can't praise this book enough. I am not knowledgable with technology but use a mobile and laptop nd regularly use google. I found this book very informative and easy to understand. The language used makes it accessible to the non techy reader or listener, but is not so simplistic as to be ptronising. This book takes the listener through the history of google from ist formation to the present and gives some background to the founders which I felt helped me to understand the concept behind the company. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about the digital age we have come into, whether you are an older person with little understanding of technology but an interest in it, or whether you are a younger person who may use technology without realising that you are doing so. I particularly recommend this book to young people thinking of some sort of technology based university course or career. For me this book has unlocked some of the mysteries of how and why some of the technologys are packaged as they are, although perhaps thats because I was particularly ignorant before listening to this audio book? If so I am sure I am not the only one who suffers from that chronic condition that is ignorance. Thanks to google I am making a steady recovery. I enjoyed this book as an audio book and the narator read at a comfortable pace with a pleasant clear accent that is easy on the ear, even if the ear in question is UK rather than US. This is the sort of book that makes "Audible" worth while, because lthough the book is fairly long, and long winded at times, it is very easy to listen to and take in whilst doing chores or driving. Get this book, you can't go wrong, its really good.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • leeyue
    United Kingdom
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "Lee"

    An interesting and intriguing read. Good for anyone want to know more about some inner scene about the company.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Broadbottom, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Super Read, Very Insightful"

    this is a superb insight into the goings on of Google and how the worlds biggest search engine works. Its so insightful all webby type people should have a read or listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kevin
    stanford le hope, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Interesting facts about how Google operate"

    This is a fascinating book about why Google is a good place for employees to work. As someone who isn't in the tech scene the book came as a bit of an eye opener. As a geek Disneyland, the staff work in an environment that allows them to innovate and create at a relentless pace. The audio also covers Google projects in other countries such as India. If you are a recruiter this is a book packed with insight and if you want to get a job with Google this is a good place to start. An enjoyable listen if you are active online and use search engines and would like to see the personalities behind them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • G
    warrington, United Kingdom
    2/23/12
    Overall
    "Brilliant listen for any Google user"

    Great listen for anyone who has ever used a Google product. It's amazing to see how Google grew so quickly with such a great basic idea.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gene
    Chicago, IL, United States
    7/31/11
    Overall
    "Great Story, Great Narration!"

    One of the best narrators I've heard. I enjoyed listening to Google's story and how the system works. I've had my earphones on for many many hours listening to this. Finished it in 3 days, I was definitely sad when it was done, I wish it was longer.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • HP76
    London
    6/5/11
    Overall
    "Great listen for any Google fan"

    Well researched and well structured book. Even if you know a lot about Google there are some great insights here. recommended

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • George
    Harrogate, United Kingdom
    5/26/11
    Overall
    "Remarkable"

    Finally, the inside track to a story you already know! We've all observed the little changes to google search, and big product launches like gmail and android, but if you're like me, you didn't know the how's or the why's. Engrossing and empowering, Steven Levy did a great job with the material and I feel some of the "googleyness" he mentions rubbed off him, and now it's rubbed off on me too. Big picture, innovation, revolution, evolution... I guess this is the first book ive read that you might class as a business book, but it's more of a tale, maybe even an allegory, for making the impossible possible, using smarts to change the world, doing things better than the traditional way, and more. Loved it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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