Results from a Survey on SimplyE

SimplyE, frequently mentioned on this page, has been the subject of a user survey by Minitex. We are told that Minitex is hiring program developers who will meet with developers from NYPL to enhance the app, adding capabilities such as annotation, documentation, and PDF compatibility that will make it more suited for academic use.

Here is an executive summary, with thanks to Minitex Director Valerie Horton:

SimplyE Awareness Survey Executive Summary
November 2016

As outlined in the SimplyE for Consortia grant to IMLS, Minitex with support from grant partners (DPLA, NYPL, MLS, RAILS, and others) designed and implemented a pre-test survey of librarians on ebooks. Respondents were asked to rate their awareness of SimplyE and related projects; rank desired features in library ebook systems; and describe ebook technology in their library. The survey was distributed broadly via mailing lists and social channels. The survey was open for one month and received 394 responses from the library community. 

Respondent profile
Roughly half of respondents were from public libraries (51%), followed by consortia (12%), academic libraries (6%); 31% belonged to another library type or declined to answer. 

Respondents are not familiar with [the project name] SimplyE
Survey respondents were more familiar with the term SimplyE than any other project name, but not by much. All projects had a majority response of ‘Not At All Familiar,’ with the best known, SimplyE with a high 67% unfamiliar rating. Respondents were shown a link to the Library Simplified site ( both before and after the survey. 

Respondents open to launching SimplyE and need more information
Given the lack of awareness, only 29% of respondents were likely or extremely likely to launch SimplyE,  Among respondents who answered about hurdles to launch, top concerns included staff time, cost, and training patrons to use a new app. Only 11.9% were unlikely or extremely unlikely to launch, and those who said they would not launch felt they needed more information or were still evaluating. Partners on the LEAP and SimplyE for Consortia grant disclosed their timeline.

Feature rank insights
Respondents ranked features grouped by type.  These features will be used to inform the Advisory Committee and the development team’s priorities. Desired features include audiobook compatibility; patron notification of available title; ability to search throughout book; and access to related works. 

Current ebook usage in libraries
Public libraries overwhelmingly use OverDrive (88%) as at least one of their ebook platforms. Other popular platforms include Axis360 (29%), OneClick Digital (23%), EBSCO (21%), BiblioBoard (18%) and Bibliotecha/3M Cloud Library. A majority of academic library respondents use Ebsco (65%) and Gale (54%). Consortia answering on behalf of member libraries reflected similar findings.

Respondents were supportive of making library ebook systems available on a wide variety of platforms. Kindle and Desktop versions of an app were ranked most important but respondents overwhelmingly saw a need for all. The survey did not list iOS and Android as an option, which respondents corrected in the ‘Other’ field. 

The most-used integrated library systems include Innovative Interfaces systems and SirsiDynix. Respondents were generally unaware of or did not promote the importance of authenticating through non-ILS systems, though of the options EZProxy was most used in libraries. 

Respondents mixed on their satisfaction with library ebook systems; prioritize goals that help patrons over staff
Respondents were fairly well divided on their opinions about ebook system with satisfied (37.5%), neither satisfied nor dissatisfied (29.7%), and dissatisfied (27%). Patron-focused goals all had greatest weight on ‘Very Important’ while staff goals all had greatest weight on ‘Important.”

These responses will both guide future development and outreach decisions, as well as help measure the grant outcome of increasing awareness of SimplyE. SimplyE is built by libraries, for libraries, and SimplyE for Consortia grant partners are grateful to the community for this feedback.  We wish to thank those of you who responded to the survey.  We will be doing a follow-up survey in 2018. 

A few other tentative conclusions are possible from the results:

  • There is a place for a truly good library eBook app: with only37.%% of those surveyed satisfied with their current systems--and the survey is likely to have been taken by those who have self-selected for an interest in library technology--some 2/3 of librarians want something better. 
  • The power of SimplyE to provide interoperability in a library-owned and branded app is attractive. Its features are admired in theory. Getting away from vendor-branded apps that privilege content provided by the vendor is desirable for librarians. Since the app is very much on the right track, RF looks forward to its continued development and encourages librarians to investigate. Interest is picking up, with California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island all investigating consortial adoption and Brooklyn going live with a 2.0 version of the app in January of 2108.  Look for more developments soon!