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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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Finally, I get 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. There's a lot of high level knowledge in this book that I've adopted into my work ethic. Now all I need is a copy of their OKR and apply it to everything!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jeff
  • MASON, OH, United States
  • 08-21-11

Great for the stories.

More of a "20/20" investigation of Google than anything else. Does assume you have the name familiarity that he does which can get difficult to follow at times.

20 hours is a long time to explain only a decade, and there is some redundancy.

The stories, are excellent. Steven obviously had an "all access" path in Google. If you have any questions about this company, or consider them on any level, there is information in this you'll be excited to hear.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Just ok for me

The book was very well narrated and written. It was just a bit boring.

For the person not up on tech, the content may be more revelatory but for a blog follower on all things tech it was a bit underwhelming.

I also think the author was too close to google to give an objective report. More a collation of news that we, for the most part, know.

Alas, it passed the time during a few commutes. 2.5 stars - bland.

45 of 49 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Rip Snorting Story

Steven Levy has successfully gathered all the details necessary to tell the story of Google - to the present in early 2011. The most interesting sections deal with Google's experience in China, insights into the Google culture in the US and abroad, and how particular decisions were made from the beginning. The growth of Google is here, conflict along the way is presented, and the ethical and technological challenges covered. The only downside of the book - it is too early to know how Google will adjust to being a a "big company." A benefit of the Audible version is the "extra" interview section at the end. The reading of L. J. Ganser is excellent, the writing is engaging, and the book informative.

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily
  • ARLINGTON, VA, United States
  • 05-11-11

Clever, honest, and even inspiring

If you use Gmail, Google Search, Google Analytics, hell, any Google product at all, or you've ever been frustrated by the bureaucratic process, you owe it to yourself to check out this book.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • Orlando, Florida United States
  • 07-25-11

Excellent Current Story

If you have listened to the earlier books "Search" and "Google", then you have not heard what this book has to say. It is excellent and covers many more products than just search. It is also extremely current.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Google is Everywhere!

A fascinating and sometimes scary look into the power and depth of whatever Google is really trying to be. The concept of “cloud computing” where files on our personal computers/phones/whatever …no longer exist….” asks us to place all of our trust in a company that appears to mean well ………. that appears to have our best interests at heart – but when and where have we heard all of that before and what were the outcomes?

A great – “should/must read” for all of us who use many of Google’s services on a daily basis.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Diane
  • United States
  • 06-04-12

A high-quality book, but boring

First, a disclaimer. I simply could not get past chapter 8 although I really wanted to. This book was clearly well researched, written, and read. But unlike Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs", which I found fascinating and thoroughly entertaining, there was nothing in this book of human interest to make the story come alive. Certainly it's a must read for industry enthusiasts, or any entrepreneurial type for that matter. As I am neither of those, however, it fell flat for me and I am giving up.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • Peoria, IL, United States
  • 06-01-11

Levy hit another home run

An excellent treatment of the ups and downs for Google. Very interesting information about one of the most secretive companies in the world!

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • TM
  • 12-05-13

A Reporter Reporting, not a Writer Writing

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The narrator does the best he can with the material, but it is dry stuff and slow-going.

Any additional comments?

Having enjoyed "I'm Feeling Lucky", and assuming it was a single persons perspective on the amazing start-up story, I thought I would try another book about Google. However, this book had no narrative arc. It was just a series of reported events with dry quotes from Google employees. I did my best to stay engaged, but about half way through the second part I found other books to listen to.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs
  • 03-05-12

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

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  • Carrie
  • 03-31-13

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

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  • Erika
  • 01-25-13

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

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  • leeyue
  • 12-24-12


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

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  • Andrew
  • 12-23-12

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

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  • Kevin
  • 12-23-12

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

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  • G
  • 02-23-12

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

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  • Gene
  • 07-31-11

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

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  • HP76
  • 06-05-11

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

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  • George
  • 05-26-11


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