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Download The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation Audiobook, by Jon Gertner Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (490 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jon Gertner Narrator: Chris Sorensen Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781464038433
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In The Idea Factory, New York Times Magazine writer Jon Gertner reveals how Bell Labs served as an incubator for scientific innovation from the 1920s through the 1980s. In its heyday, Bell Labs boasted nearly 15,000 employees, 1,200 of whom held PhDs and 13 of whom won Nobel Prizes. Thriving in a work environment that embraced new ideas, Bell Labs scientists introduced concepts that still propel many of today’s most exciting technologies. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Riveting…Mr. Gertner’s portraits of Kelly and the cadre of talented scientists who worked at Bell Labs are animated by a journalistic ability to make their discoveries and inventions utterly comprehensible—indeed, thrilling—to the lay reader. And they showcase, too, his novelistic sense of character and intuitive understanding of the odd ways in which clashing or compatible personalities can combine to foster intensely creative collaborations.” 

    New York Times 

  • “One of the best innovation-focused books I’ve read: It’s a wide-ranging, detailed, and deeply fascinating look at the New Jersey lab which has been churning out useful discoveries since the early 1900s.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “Filled with colorful characters and inspiring lessons…The Idea Factory explores one of the most critical issues of our time: What causes innovation?” 

    New York Times Book Review 

  • “Compelling…Gertner’s book offers fascinating evidence for those seeking to understand how a society should best invest its research resources.” 

    Wall Street Journal

  • “The men of Bell Labs…are brought to life by Jon Gertner in The Idea Factory, his wonderful history of the most influential corporate-research lab the world has seen…Mr Gertner does a super job of making complex science intelligible to the lay reader. He frequently evokes a sense of awe at how this army of scientists made a reality of what even for them was often unthinkable.” 

    Economist

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sam Keen | 2/19/2014

    " Found this to be only slightly insightful. The book possibly tried to cover too much so was unable to attribute a significant level of detail any given area of the history in question. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandy | 2/1/2014

    " A great book about a unique place in American history. Also, a warning for the future, as in "how do we pay for pure research going forward in this world of the almighty dollar?" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve | 1/21/2014

    " This is a wonderful book, not only reporting on the amazing accomplishments of the people at Bell Labs (the transistor, laser, fiber optics, cell phone technology, information theory, etc.) but also discussing the nature of innovation and the conditions necessary to foster it. In some sense the achievements of Bell Labs created a new environment which undermined the very foundation of its success--the Bell System monopoly. However, from the late 1930s to the early 1970s, the technological center of the American economy was in New Jersey and our world continues to benefit from the work of Bell Labs. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 1/19/2014

    " An insightful and almost loving history of Bell Labs, the people who worked there and the amazing innovations that came out of there. The book is also an analysis of the process of innovation and the contrast of the Bell Labs model (housed in a regulated monopoly with plenty of money, plenty of time and no competition) and the Silicon Valley model (businesses coming and going, engineers transferring from business to business, ruthless competition). Bell Labs gave us basic research; Silicon Valley gives us great products based on existing research. Bell Labs looked at innovation as encompassing research, development/manufacturing and the creation of a new market with the overriding desire to make things better and cheaper. For a look at what was a great American asset and to learn about innovation, this book is highly recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason Szanyi | 1/18/2014

    " I'm a huge nerd, so this was a four-star read for me. But, I could see how others might not find it as engaging. Made me appreciate all the smart folks out there who do work that I couldn't possibly comprehend, but that is hugely important to everyday life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kamran | 12/29/2013

    " A must read for techies. I was just blown away by all of the stuff Bell Labs was responsible for and look forward to touring their site in NJ. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bruce | 11/19/2013

    " engrossing history of the lab that spawned myriad inventions to birth the communication age "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Howdoc | 11/4/2013

    " Need to remember your college physics to totally understand the scientific references-- or just skip the references (which would be the majority of the book). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Thomas M. | 9/23/2013

    " I spent most of my career as a physicist working at the Kodak Research Laboratories. So for me this was a terrific book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Debbie Collins | 8/10/2013

    " I liked learning about inventing new technologies, but it rambled too much. Lost interest and stopped reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dixon | 7/28/2013

    " A little dense with the technical talk. I honestly found it quite tough to keep up with the wide cast of characters (even the main ones!) But to a non-engineer, non-physicist like myself, it was a glimpse into a world I'd have never seen otherwise. Definitely worth the read, for the curious. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Todd | 7/8/2013

    " What started out as more of a story about technology ended up a story about people -- a surprisingly moving one, at that. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Derek | 4/1/2013

    " Fascinating history of the Bell Labs, and just how much of our current technology came out of the fundamental research done at Bell Labs. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeanne Hand | 2/17/2013

    " A bit dry but interesting. Especially liked the idea of how mixing scientists and engineers together allowed ideas to be born and move forward in unique ways. But some of these folks seemed toxic to me. Gives some meaning to the saying " mad scientist ". "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron | 12/8/2012

    " Would like to know what the modern day result of this history has lead us to. In terms of ideal company structure and ecosystem. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul Myer | 8/13/2012

    " Worked with some of the Labs people while @ Lucent. Knew much of the history but a great account of the institutional contribution. Sad to see it fade along with other former US. centers of innovation and excellence. "

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About the Author

Jon Gertner has been a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine since 2004, has served as a senior editor for Money and The American Lawyer, and is currently an editor at Fast Company Magazine. A graduate of Cornell University, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

About the Narrator

Chris Sorensen is the AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator of Brian Lies’ Bats at the Beach, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Sent. Other narrations include Patricia Wood’s Lottery and Jodi Picoult’s Songs of the Humpback Whale, among many others.