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In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives Hardcover – 12 May 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416596585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416596585
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Levy is America’s premier technology journalist. . . . He has produced the most interesting book ever written about Google. He makes the biggest intellectual challenges of computer science seem endlessly fun and fascinating. . . . We can expect many more books about Google. But few will deliver the lively, idea-based journalism of In the Plex.”
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Washington Post

"Almost nothing can stop a remarkable idea executed well at the right time, as Steven Levy's brisk-but-detailed history of Google, In the Plex, convincingly proves. . . . makes obsolete previous books on the company."
—Jack Shafer, The San Francisco Chronicle

"The rise of Google is an engrossing story, and nobody's ever related it in such depth."
—Hiawatha Bray, The Boston Globe

"Dense, driven examination of the pioneering search engine that changed the face of the Internet.

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.' The author capably describes Google’s founders, Stanford grads Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as sharp, user-focused and steadfastly intent on 'organizing all the world’s information.' Levy traces how Google’s intricately developed, intrepid beginnings and gradual ascent over a competitive marketplace birthed an advertising-fueled 'money machine' (especially following its IPO in 2004), and he follows the expansion and operation of the company’s liberal work campus ('Googleplex') and its distinctively selective hiring process (Page still signs off on every new hire). The author was afforded an opportunity to observe the company’s operations, development, culture and advertising model from within the infrastructure for two years with full managerial cooperation. From there, he performed hundreds of interviews with past and current employees and discovered the type of 'creative disorganization' that can either make or break a business. Though clearly in awe of Google’s crowning significance, Levy evenhandedly notes the company’s more glaring deficiencies, like the 2004 cyber-attack that forced the removal of the search engine from mainland China, a decision vehemently unsupported by co-founder Brin. 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 (starred review)

"An instructive primer on how the minds behind the world's most influential internet company function."
—Richard Waters, The Wall Street Journal

"[Steven Levy] spent much of the past three years playing anthropologist at one of the Internet's most interesting villages and set of inhabitants -- the Googleplex and the tribue of Googlers who inhabit it. . . . A deep dive into Google's culture, history and technology."
--Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News

"The wizards of Silicon Valley often hype their hardware/software breakthroughs as 'magical' for the products' ability to pull off dazzling stunts in the blink of an eye. And true to the magicians' code, these tech talents rarely let mere mortals peer behind the curtains. . . . That's what makes Levy's just-out tome so valuable."
—Jonathan Takiff, The Philadelphia Daily News

"The most comprehensive, intelligent and readable analysis of Google to date. Levy is particularly good on how those behind Google think and work. . . . What's more, his lucid introductions to Google's core technologies - the search engine and the company's data centres - are written in non-geek English and are rich with anecdotes and analysis. . . . In The Plex teems with original insight into Google's most controversial affairs."
—Andrew Keen, New Scientist

"Steven Levy's new account [of Google], In the Plex, is the most authoritative to date and in many ways the most entertaining."
—James Gleick, The New York Review of Books

About the Author

Steven Levy is a senior writer at Wired, and was formerly senior editor and chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. He is the author of several books, including Hackers, Insanely Great, and The Perfect Thing. A native of Philadelphia, Levy lives in New York City with his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Teresa Carpenter, and their son. Visit him at

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ever since its inception, and in many cases even before it became incorporated, Google has been referred to mainly in the superlatives. The briskness with which it became the dominant player in online search, the sheer size of its operations and the infrastructure, the incredibly short time within which it became one of the largest companies in terms of market capitalization - all of these are the stuff of legends. It is unsurprising then that Google would attract a high level of media attention, and there are literally hundreds of articles written about it every day. (I know this because I just did a quick search for Google in Google News.) Over the years there has also been no shortage of books on Google. However, in terms of the depth and breadth of its research, as well as the amount of first-hand information that it provides, Steven Levy's "In The Plex" stands in a category of its own.

In the minds of its founders and most of the early employees, Google is first and foremost a technology company. The business model of online advertising came about almost as an afterthought, and one continuously gets the sense that its purpose is to pay the bills so that Google geeks can have a free reign in pursuing their latest techie interest. This attitude is an integral part of Google's DNA, and any book that aims to provide the reader with a better sense of what Google is all about needs to get this point across. Unfortunately, there have been several books in recent years that were more concerned with all the intangible aspects of life in the age of Google and had almost completely missed this point. "In The Plex," I am happy to say, did not fall in that trap.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Carroll VINE VOICE on 19 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book automatically because I had previously read and enjoyed Levy's previous works: Insanely Great, Hackers and Chaos. Given his heritage covering technology companies and personalities as both an author and a journalist, I was curious what he would make of Google.

The book is expansive and provides a lot of additional colour around Google, some of which I found of interest as I had worked at Yahoo! competing against Google and working with some of the early darlings of the web 2.0 movement - Flickr and Delicious. There were a couple of things that surprised me such as Google's use of machine learning on areas like translation explained why grammar is still so bad in this area as it needs heuristics that lexicographers could provide similar to that offered by Crystal Semantics.

Overall it was interesting to see that as with most large organisations Google is not only fallible but run through with realpolitik and a fair bit of serendipity. This contrasts with the external perception of Google as the technological Übermensch. A classic example of this is the series of missteps Google made whilst competing in China, which are documented in the book. From staffing practices, promotional tactics and legal to technology; Google blew it's chances and Baidu did a better job.

As an aside it was interesting to note that Google used queries on rival search engines to try and work out how to comply with Chinese government regulations, which is eerily like bad practices that Google accused Bing of last February in `hiybbprqag'-gate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
Journalist Steven Levy's previous books about Macintosh computers and about hackers make him the perfect insider-outsider, with the knowledge to write a detailed history of famously private Google. Granted unprecedented access, Levy appears to have insightfully interviewed everyone about every moment of Google's history to present this canonical version of the company's saga. Levy seems a little too close to his subject, so perhaps his book is not a warts-and-all chronicle, but most of the stories are fascinating, and it is all well reported. getAbstract recommends this heavily anecdotal history to readers who are launching a start-up, intrigued by computers and cultural history, or interested in a nice, detailed dose of the truth behind all those Google rumors.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was, like most books I have read about this giant company, a fascinating read. Describing the journey of the company from an idealistic start-up to one of the largest companies in the world it is hard not to be impressed with this chronicle of Google.

For the most part the book was very well written and obviously it has been incredibly well researched. From the personal details about the people who work at Google through to the technical workings of some of Google's products and thought processes, it was obviously painstakingly put together from a massive amount of information.

This made it the most complete chronicle of Google that I have read to date. Whilst this is a good thing, it also meant that the book was quite long and as such began to suffer from pacing issues. The early years which cover the first half of the book was exciting and fast paced. However as the company becomes more established and they start entering the realms of big business along with big business problems the pace of the writing slowed.

Other than this slight reduction in the pace of the story though, it is a very easy and enjoyable read. My only other criticism however is the reason why this book has lost a star in my rating; the voice of the author is quite biased in tone.

Because of Google's unofficial motto, 'Do no evil', I kept getting the impression that when describing every situation in the book the author was siding with Google as though their ideas were automatically right. He does actually commit to this bias in anything other than tone but I was definitely picking this up throughout the book.

The trouble with this is that evil is a subjective term.
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