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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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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Ammar 11-30-14
    Ammar 11-30-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    8
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    "Excellent Narration with Excellent content"
    Where does In the Plex rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The author takes you to the inside out of the Google and answers all the question about What and How did Google do it. This book is really inspiring, fun and can motivate you to a startup. :-)


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

    I have listened to several audio books. I would rate this book as one of top books that was narrated exceptionally well.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a must read for all the people who want to know everything about Google.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    66
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    "Audio delivers on its pubishers summary"

    Excellent audio that held my attention the whole way through. I liked that it was not a puff piece and got a true look from a business perspective at where Google started and what they have succeeded and failed at.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Dietrich 09-04-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    "Don't Be Evil*"
    If you could sum up In the Plex in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, amazing and disturbing. It's great American entrepreneurial tale, but in the back of my mind I couldn't escape the realization that the core of their business is selling ads. Billions of dollars in ads, and said billions they spend like drunken sailors.


    What other book might you compare In the Plex to and why?

    Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.


    What three words best describe L. J. Ganser’s voice?

    Neutral, bland and unexciting. There were a few pronunciation curiosities... "DEC" is usually pronounced "Deck," and to the best of my knowledge, "Vista" in "Alta Vista" is not pronounced "Vee-stuh." Small quibbles, though.


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

    It's worse than you think.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoy Steven Levy's books. Hackers is one of my all-time favorites. BUT it's clear that the cost of the level of access to Google that Levy was granted came at a cost of objectivity. Still, it's an interesting story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13 Member Since 2014

    I love learning, teaching, and exploring!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    206
    ratings
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    86
    35
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    Story
    "Google lover"

    I love Google and Google products so this book enjoyable listening for me. It was informative to learn about the ideas and people behind the products that I love to use, but also interesting to learn more about some of the controversial practices used by Google. Everything from hiring practices, to the concept of page rank, and the China decision was covered. It might come across as a little bit pro-Google to those who are not Google fans, but I didn't mind.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    stpal001 10-21-12
    stpal001 10-21-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Worth more than you think"

    I started this book only mildly interested and ended with an example of how to build a new world. I could have used a lot more detail on the technical aspects of this story: page rank, server clusters, etc.; and less of the internal politics and business models. But the message which was repeated throughout this story was "change the world for the better and let the algorithms do the heavy lifting". It is almost curious that such a bunch of technonerds could make such a profound humanitarian statement, but that is Steven Levy's genius for detail as much as anything purposely done of the principals in this story. Ganser did a superb narration job. If we are lucky this will be the first volume with another installment in 20 or so years. Spolier Alert: Paleonerds will really enjoy this tale. For all others, proceed with caution.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin United States 10-11-12
    Kevin United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Definitive Book on Google"

    This book is way better than "What Would Google Do". I particularly like the sections that talked about Google's data centers: the machines they use, the cooling systems, the locations, etc. Techies and non-techies will get enjoyment out of this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2015

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
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    "Everything I knew about Google was wrong"

    Everything I thought I knew about Google was wrong. I have a whole new understanding and, yes, an appreciation for the success of Google. Google was much more than just a good search engine. They knew how to take that product and leverage it to make money. The author really lets you feel like your inside the company and understand how they succeeded. A very fun and eye opening read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretel Jackson, MS, United States 03-19-12
    Gretel Jackson, MS, United States 03-19-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Google Puff Piece"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This is not all an objective treatment. However, even with the author's reverence for the


    Would you recommend In the Plex to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes and no: it's competent but nearly hagiographic. VERY few opposing viewpoints. I would bet that Google traded access for guaranteed favorable treatment.


    What about L. J. Ganser’s performance did you like?

    Outstanding narration.


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

    No


    Any additional comments?

    The author would have been well-served to leave out the Obama-centric chapters near the end of the book. They add very little and sound too much like mainstream Obama puffery: according to Levy, the President's main problem is just being too darn rational.... Yeah, right.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dean 11-05-11
    Dean 11-05-11 Member Since 2015

    KoolMoeDean

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    21
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    "One of the better business biography-type books"

    This was more interesting than some other examples in this genre (Hsieh's book about Zappos or Employee 59 for example) probably because it was written by an outsider with access to the company, not a founder, former employee or someone with a direct stake in the company. It's interesting to see the development of the algorithm, the inside look at the corporate culture and other aspects of the company that is such a big part of all our lives, whether we like it or not.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Adams 10-21-11
    J. Adams 10-21-11

    MrBizzleTex

    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
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    49
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    "Authoritative Read of THE Google Book"

    Mr. Levy wrote THE definitive book about google and his insights are fascinating. It is also clear that he was given access to individuals and documents that had previously not been available to other authors. The resulting story is a balanced book not just a love note to Google.

    The Narration by Mr. Ganser is pitch perfect! He is authoritative and clear. Even when the book drags just a bit Mr. Ganser's narration keeps you involved and listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • P
    Aberdeen, United Kingdom
    8/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A little boring"

    The first half of the book is interesting and kept me interested but the sections on china, google books were just lenghtly and boring with too much pointless detail.
    It does a good job on explaining how google was developped and how is essentially works. I would recommend this book to someone who really loves google products or wants to create a IT start-up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • J. Freeman
    HULL, United Kingdom
    6/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting in parts"

    One of those books that I am not enjoying enough to get excited about but not hating enough to delete. It's interesting in part but not enough to make up for the dullness of the subject.

    The narrator is also very cheesy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    Epsom, United Kingdom
    6/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Somehow left me flat ;-("

    Having been an avid fan of audio books and captivated recently by the Steve Jobs biography. This review of Google seem somewhat 'clinical'. It was fine, historically interesting, giving insight but ultimately it just seemed a serious of facts strung together in a less than captivating way which did not draw you in or make you really care what happended (even though we all know how well Google has done).

    I listened to it all but by halfway through the first half I was wishing it over but continued to the end.

    Not the strongest book I have heard by far and don't expect a light story, but if you want to know about google then the author had access to the heart of the business.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David B
    London, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating account"

    Great insights into the amazing ascent of Google from an author who clearly has had some high level access.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Shepperton, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "OK-but don't get too ecited"

    This book is an OK look at Google and the rise of the search engine as it grows from early concept to where it is now and as it looks to enter new markets. However, there is nothing particularly new in the book over what you hear on the media regularly. Amd I have to say, although this may jut be me, I do find the narrators voice and intonation quite irritating!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe
    Kilkenny, Ireland
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating, super read."

    The last time I read a Steven Levy book was back 2001, the fascinating 'Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything'. Levy takes on a similar subject here, examining the birth and development of Google. I have to say, I thought this was an excellent read, with a thorough and comprehensive story and a clear theme as Levy focuses on the culture which the founders instilled into their organisation. The chapters on the early days were fascinating, and insights into Google's technology eye-opening, and the book left me with a whole new perspective on Google. If you enjoy technology books you'll love this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Judy Corstjens
    3/18/13
    Overall
    "Thorough job"

    Very complete history of an amazing company. I found the book more worthy than fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
    3/11/13
    Overall
    "Great Listen"

    I found this book inspiring; this book is constructed in a way that it keeps you engaged from start to finish. I was disappointed when it ended, even if your not into technology the leadership principles demonstrated are sound.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adrian
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    2/25/13
    Overall
    "I warmed to the Google empire"

    A fascinating insight into the minds of the Google founders, leaders and employees. The author did come across as a bit of a fanboy, particularly when Microsoft came up and that dented the my enjoyment and his credibility a very small amount.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Stockholm, Sweden
    5/4/12
    Overall
    "A vision"

    As a software engineer I've used Google since it raced past AltaVista et.al. This book provides a interesting
    It covers history, founders, obstacles, technical achievements - but also philosophy and ideology.
    The best parts are the anecdotes sprinkled through the book.
    Of course it is a bit biased. Focus are on the successful stories. Start and end are almost recruitment advertising...
    I also find a bit to long. As a developer I would love to have more technical details/anecdotes. I had expected more regarding Android - and less regarding self steering cars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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