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In the Plex Audiobook

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

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Performance
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  •  
    J. Adams 10-21-11
    J. Adams 10-21-11

    MrBizzleTex

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Amr 09-18-11
    Amr 09-18-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    14
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    "I thought this would be a fanboy book"

    I thought this would be a fan-boy book.
    There's a big part of this book that is just about telling the story of Google. How it started, how it has grown to be the Internet giant that it is now.
    But it's the Google story told by a journalist with a long relationship with Google. This doesn't affect his integrity but I think it makes him sees the world as Google sees it. Judge Google by their intentions rather than their actions. He's like one of those "embed" journalists that travel with the U.S. forces in Iraq. After a while, he starts to be one of them. This issue confirms my guess that this is a fan-boy book.

    But as I read on, the author raises questions about Google losing its soul (my words not his), and how it was transformed from an Internet startup to a giant corporation, and how all this affect Google. He's not a fan-boy, he's a fan of Google for sure but the way it was not necessarily the way it is or would be.

    The story is told in terms of topics and products. Starting with important products to less important topics and failed products. This causes some jumps in the time line forward and backward which could be frustrating. At least I felt that sometimes it lacks connecting all those stories together.

    There's a focus in the book on technical details. They're explained in plain English in a way simple enough for a reader to understand but are also very intriguing for a developer or a person with technical background.

    There are two stories in the book that I was impressed by: Google's approach to Data Center and Google position towards China.

    This book is a good read and I recommend it if you want to find more information on Google or want to see the world as they do.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen 06-17-11
    Helen 06-17-11 Member Since 2015

    running2remake

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    "I learned therefore I loved...."

    This book is interesting and informative. It's historical and at the same time nicely considers current events and future prospects. The interview was a fun surprise!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    serine 02-02-16
    serine 02-02-16 Member Since 2011
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    "Great History of Google"

    Great history of Google. I particularly loved reading about their advertising strategy. Always the revolutionaries, cofounders Brin and Page consistently refused to follow a standard model when it came to their company. This approach changed the face of advertising (and other things) in ways of which I was not fully aware. Loved it.

    What a great read. From learning about privacy concerns to understanding what it went into Google Maps, to gaining an understanding of what it was like for Google in China, this book really took the reader inside Google.

    As much as I loved this book, I still love Hatching Twitter more. If you liked this book, you will love that book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Technologist for Too Long 01-10-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Interesting how quickly our world becomes history"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    There are a lot of references to Digital Equipment Corporation. Everyone I know in the midwest and Houston area pronounced the company DEC (like Deck to side on, not D E C). Interesting to see the role Sheryl Sandburg (now of Facebook) had in Google maturing.


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

    A nice study in the growth of one of the largest companies in the world that affects us all, even if you don't use a computer or a GPS.


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

    Enough enthusiasm to keep it interesting, but not feeling phony. But, there are a lot of references to Digital Equipment Corporation. Everyone I know in the midwest and Houston area pronounced the company DEC (like Deck on a ship, rhymes with Tech, not D E C). It was really annoying. It may be a style standard, but common usage should prevail here.


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

    We grew up and are taking over the world.


    Any additional comments?

    There are a lot of references to Digital Equipment Corporation. Everyone I know in the midwest and Houston area pronounced the company DEC (like Deck to side on, not D E C).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tutunaru Cosmin-Mihai 01-07-16 Member Since 2015
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    "An inspiring book"

    The book was very well narrated and written. Maybe a bit boring sometimes, but the author has successfully gathered all the details necessary to tell the story of Google. This is a must read for anyone who wants to truly understand Google. Their struggle and why they do what they do is so interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Spencer Hicks 10-30-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Intriguing"

    The story of Google is well laid out if not a little disjointed due to the number of events all happening in such a short period of time. If you enjoy stories where black and white can change to shades of gray then you will enjoy the insights into Google's story of rise and turmoil as they attempt to live out their ideals in the high stakes industry of high tech.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nina 10-16-15
    Nina 10-16-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Interesting - lots to learn!"
    Would you recommend In the Plex to your friends? Why or why not?

    If you are interested in learning more about Google - read this book!


    Do you think In the Plex needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes, because lots have happened since 2010 and I am very interested in all that has happened since and where Google is now!


    Any additional comments?

    The book kept me interested enough to keep going. I learned stuff I never knew which was good. Good to know more about Google.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Meeks 10-12-15 Member Since 2014
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    "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    I thought the author did a great job of covering most if not all of Google's projects. It was interesting hearing some of the more intimate details about the inner workings of Google.


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

    I'd say any of the audio books about the big players in Silicon Valley are similar to this book.


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

    I havent listened to any of his other performances. His voice didn't annoy me though, and it paired well with the content of the audio book.


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

    Google: We're not a cult.


    Any additional comments?

    I think the author went a bit too easy on Google and always took them at face value when they said they operated in the interest of their users instead of on corporate profits. A good example of this is the whole China debacle. In my experience you don't become a global powerhouse by playing nice with everyone. I'm sure Google has some skeletons in their closet just like everyone else.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tobin Shields SANDY, OREGON, US 10-11-15
    Tobin Shields SANDY, OREGON, US 10-11-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Overall a Fun Read!"

    Overall this book captured what Google had been up to until 2010 (which at the rate of growing technology means is somewhat outdated). It was told in an interesting way as both an insider and outsider. No doubt Google had some influence on what the finished product looked like, but that does not mean that everyone comes out looking like angels. If you are looking for both a historical and somewhat modern understanding of Google, this is a solid read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • 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
  • gordon
    london, United Kingdom
    8/22/11
    Overall
    "good, if long"

    this book went on and on and on, but it was fascinating in parts and really informative. i certainly learned a lot about google and the culture within. given i use google every single day, it was interesting to see how it developed and the trials and tribulations along the way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    6/20/11
    Overall
    "Great inspiration"

    This story about Google has been a great inspiration for me. It shows how many cool things are possible in the world of computer science. After a year's break, this book has motivated me to continue with my CS degree. For that, it deserves a 5 star rating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Phillip Hutton
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "Great Book"

    I really enjoyed this business book. Great insight into how the guys moved from startup to the power house that it has become. The whole China thing was eye opening. You all need to read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gisele
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    6/11/11
    Overall
    "iLike"

    Like peeling off the roof of Google and getting a SimCity view inside as googlers work. I feel I can see behind the Google.com search box facade. I like what I see.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • vj14
    Newark, NJ, United States
    8/30/12
    Overall
    "Great!!"

    Awesome book!! Really enjoyed it

    Excellent narrator and story. Totally worth your money. +1 +1

    Steven is reallty good

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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