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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

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  •  
    Jonas stockholm, Sweden 11-15-11
    Jonas stockholm, Sweden 11-15-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too long..."

    First half was very interesting, but towards the end it got a bit boring and repetitive.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Garett san diego, CA, United States 11-05-11
    Garett san diego, CA, United States 11-05-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Nice work Steven"

    What a great book!! It was amazing listening to the rise of my favorite company and how they did it with such class.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Evan Naugatuck, CT, United States 10-28-11
    Evan Naugatuck, CT, United States 10-28-11
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    7
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    Story
    "Similar to Google Story but more up to date. Great"

    I loved the book called "The Google Story." That was good and so was this. Lots of details on literally how Google thinks, works and shapes our lives :) Great title.

    Loved the interview at the end with Marisa Myers. I'm a Google fan boy and this book hit the spot. Thanks, Steven Levy :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek Vashon, WA, United States 10-23-11
    Derek Vashon, WA, United States 10-23-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
    ratings
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    16
    8
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    4
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    Performance
    Story
    "Good Behind the Scenes Account but Biased"

    As a follower of all things Silicon Valley, I enjoyed this book. The first half of the book was great as I was less familiar with the early days of Google. I especially enjoyed the parts about how the search and advertising innovations came about and evolved.

    Two things, however, prevent me from giving this book a higher rating. The first is Levy's bias in favor of all things Google. Maybe this was the price he had to pay for access but he included many gratuitous snide remarks toward Microsoft. Secondly, I am not sure why, but I did not enjoy the narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas W. Culbertson Eastanollee, GA United States 10-21-11
    Thomas W. Culbertson Eastanollee, GA United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enlightening"

    I agree with the majority of other reviewers, it is very good, so I will use the remainder of my words to make a suggestion which I hope others will echo.

    In addition to the spoken audio books, Audible should make pure Text-to-Speech books available. This would allow publication of a greatly expanded selection and substantially reduce the publication cost and hopefully the cost to we the consumers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Campbell Auckland, New Zealand 10-13-11
    R. Campbell Auckland, New Zealand 10-13-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "What Google really does will blow your mind"

    This is a fascinating and surprising story. You get to learn what Google is really all about and how it makes a buck. As a casual user of "search" you just wouldn't have clue what game they're playing in the background to rack up billions in revenue and profit. I took every chance I could to get my head phones on so I could find out what amazing feat was next. I could hardly believe how ambitious this company's founders are. Its really quite remarkable and inspiring to hear their story and it leaves you wondering; where on earth could this company go from here!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mim HUGHENDEN, Australia 10-01-11
    Mim HUGHENDEN, Australia 10-01-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating insight"

    Google is 13 years old and this book gave me so much insight into the phenomenon. I find myself looking at the Google site with much more appreciation than before. Took me a while to get used to the figures and statistics and so on, but once I had that sorted I found this book fascintaitng.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. Jared C. Serra st. louis, MO USA 09-25-11
    Mr. Jared C. Serra st. louis, MO USA 09-25-11 Member Since 2015

    Fathers Face Remembered

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Non Fiction that absorbs."

    This one will delight, entertain, uplift, and move you. You need to listen to this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jack englewood, CO, United States 09-11-11
    jack englewood, CO, United States 09-11-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Read this book"

    I loved this book. It is beyond relavent, it is the future and explains the world of search, maps and so much more that we take for granted. I was amazed and thought I knew something about the internet.

    Fantastic research by Steven Levy and great narration by L.J. Ganser. Could not stop listening until done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    O'Brien Singleton, Australia 09-07-11
    O'Brien Singleton, Australia 09-07-11 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    11
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    "Narration not up to standard"

    Sounds like they dragged someone out pf the 50's to narrate this one. Really took away from the experience. Maybe better to try the print edition IMO.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • 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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