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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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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.

©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

4.3 (336 )
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  •  
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 05/03/2012
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 05/03/2012 Member Since 2011

    M H

    HELPFUL VOTES
    74
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    38
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    8
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    "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 31/03/2013
    Carrie Tideswell, UK 31/03/2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    65
    12
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    "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 25/01/2013
    Erika Redhill, United Kingdom 25/01/2013 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    4
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    0
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    "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 24/12/2012
    leeyue United Kingdom 24/12/2012
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    "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 23/12/2012
    Andrew Broadbottom, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    32
    5
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    3
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    "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 23/12/2012
    Kevin stanford le hope, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    4
    4
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    0
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    "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 23/02/2012
    G 23/02/2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    5
    4
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    0
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    "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 31/07/2011
    Gene Chicago, IL, United States 31/07/2011

    ginjin3

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "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 05/06/2011
    Howard London, United Kingdom 05/06/2011 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    1
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    0
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    "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 26/05/2011
    George Harrogate, United Kingdom 26/05/2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    10
    7
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    "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
  • Showing: 1-10 of 32 results PREVIOUS124NEXT
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  • Jeff
    MASON, OH, United States
    21/08/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Roger Smith
    Orlando, Florida United States
    25/07/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Lynn
    BEAUMONT, TX, United States
    19/04/11
    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.

    40 of 42 people found this review helpful
  • Emily
    ARLINGTON, VA, United States
    11/05/11
    Overall
    "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.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Gilbert, AZ, United States
    23/04/11
    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.

    40 of 43 people found this review helpful
  • Gwozdz
    13/09/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Miike
    St. George, Ontario, Canada
    19/04/11
    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.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Diane
    United States
    04/06/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • A. Yoshida
    Pasadena, CA USA
    23/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What would we do without Google?"

    This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....

    There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew
    Peoria, IL, United States
    01/06/11
    Overall
    "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!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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