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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
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  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "The guys who helped shape the data-driven world"

    Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Calgary, Alberta, Canada 04-25-14
    Steven Calgary, Alberta, Canada 04-25-14 Member Since 2005
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    416
    55
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    "20 hours! What was I thinking?"

    OK, I finished it. 20 hours of info that I really don't need. I'm not a geek, nerd, hacker or computer scientist but I'm probably a dweeb for using a credit on this book. Some parts, maybe 6 hours, were interesting which leaves 13 hours of way too much information for the average person. If 2.5 stars was an option, I'd have gone with that but the narrator was OK so a very generous 3 stars it is.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Crawfurd ST PETERSBURG, FL USA 03-31-14
    Jon Crawfurd ST PETERSBURG, FL USA 03-31-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Important book on an important company"

    No one can argue either the phenomenal success of Google, or the fact that it's a little weird. This book gets you behind the scenes to explain how Google became so important to our lives, and to expose a little dirty laundry. Great read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 03-04-14
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2004

    Like mainly mystery and suspense with a bit of chick lit and non-fiction thrown in. Severe addiction going on 10 years to Audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The company everyone wishes they worked for"
    Any additional comments?

    This was a great insider's look into Google. Everyone pretty much knows about Google and its founders, but this really steps you through the company's evolution. There were times I laughed out loud, and times I shook my head in disbelief at some of the stories. It went at a great pace and I didn't want it to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas Woolwich Township, NJ, United States 03-02-14
    Nicholas Woolwich Township, NJ, United States 03-02-14 Member Since 2011
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    68
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    "Wow-who knew"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    I was extremely enamored with this book. It was amazing how google came to be and the path they took to grow as successful as they did. The wins, losses, and overall decisions that shaped google make this a great read and and quite frankly, a book I never expected to really enjoy.


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

    no


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie Latham, NY, United States 02-06-14
    Marie Latham, NY, United States 02-06-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Fascinating"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This audible book was a very interesting perspective and brief history of time that I found fascinating. It was enlightening to hear about the start and growth of a company that helped build how many of us operate on a daily basis. I've encouraged friends, colleagues and family to listen to this. The one aspect that was unexpected is the Marissa Mayer interview at the end without a prologue on the potential impact of her departure to a company that could emerge, potentially, as a competitor.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron 02-05-14
    Ron 02-05-14
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    "Well worth a listen"
    Would you listen to In the Plex again? Why?

    At 19 hours, there is so much content. I did start listening to it again as soon as I finished and found different sections leapt out at me.


    Any additional comments?

    Explains Google's aversion to customer service. If it can't be automated and scaled, forget it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Brampton, Ontario, Canada 12-28-13
    Amazon Customer Brampton, Ontario, Canada 12-28-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A superbly narrated riveting story of Google"
    Any additional comments?

    Precisely what I wanted to read (in fact listen) about the history of Google. It's excellently researched and the narration was perfect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin 12-19-13
    Benjamin 12-19-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "don't be ungoogly"

    Glad I read this book, but it took discipline to complete. I came away impressed and suspicious of google. Not the page turner like the Steve Jobs biography which had a real human character. With this google book, the characters are search, censorship, email, advertising, acquisitions, and googlyness. Reflects on how Google struggles with being a suddenly big company that strives to retain start-up mentality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel VANCOUVER, WA, United States 11-20-13
    Daniel VANCOUVER, WA, United States 11-20-13 Member Since 2012

    student, and thats that

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    "Fantastic"
    Would you listen to In the Plex again? Why?

    This was a fantastic read; recommended for all. One time around is all i need.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 31-40 of 148 results PREVIOUS134515NEXT
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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.

    1 of 1 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.

    1 of 1 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
  • Howard
    London, United Kingdom
    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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