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Editorial 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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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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

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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

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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

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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

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    5 out of 5 stars

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

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Facts, you're not entittled to have your own

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

Business books, business story books are a dime a docen. From classics like Ron Chernow Titan, to newer books like Alibaba by Duncan Clark, it seems that great lessons can be taught from almost all businesses. But really great business lessons, not so much. In that cense the book structure and content is pretty much like most business books out there, but that is why it is an important read. Google has shaped our history and it will probably continue to do so. Understanding why this company came to be, is important for general knowledge, and also cool facts... that are not you're own!

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Dive into the real story of Google

Google's slogan don't be evil, more like don't let others see you being evil. Great book, engaging and factual.

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Loved it!!!

love this book. found it incredibly insightful and intriguing. can reccommended it to anyone regardless of your profession.

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very interesting book

Nice Story. Written in a way that makes it easy to follow. Very interesting. I undesrtand more of the information world now.

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Well worth the read

I started recommending this book even before I finished reading it, a great insight into one of the world’s largest companies.

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    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Judy Corstjens
  • Judy Corstjens
  • 03-18-13

Thorough job

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mark
  • Mark
  • 03-11-13

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Adrian
  • 02-25-13

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.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 05-04-12

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for gordon
  • gordon
  • 08-22-11

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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Yorick Sijsling
  • Yorick Sijsling
  • 06-20-11

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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Phillip Hutton
  • Phillip Hutton
  • 06-11-11

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Gisele
  • 06-11-11

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.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • vj14
  • 08-30-12

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