We've had this fortunate streak that when we've done things that have impacted our users and society as a whole — positively, in a significant way — we've been rewarded by that downstream in some way, even though we may not have envisioned exactly what it was right offhand. We didn't have ads when we first put up Web search. It wasn't clear it was great business when we started search. In fact, the companies that were doing search were moving away from it. But we just thought it was important, and we thought that where there was a will there would be a way. And in fact it turned out to be a great way to make money doing search with targeted advertising.
That was Sergey's answer to New Yorker's question if book search could be a profitable business. Even if it's not, it's too important not to do it.
No one really knows how many books there are. The most volumes listed in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat, a database of titles from more than twenty-five thousand libraries around the world. Google aims to scan at least that many. "We think that we can do it all inside of ten years," Marissa Mayer, a vice-president at Google who is in charge of the books project, said recently, at the company’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California. "It's mind-boggling to me, how close it is. I think of Google Books as our moon shot."
Google hopes to improve the quality of the search results, because books contain much valuable information than web sites. "Google has become known for providing access to all of the world's knowledge, and if we provide access to books we are going to get much higher-quality and much more reliable information. We are moving up the food chain."