NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Jaymie Shook knows firsthand that her hunger to consumer page-turners was hurting her wallet.

“I read so much that it was getting expensive," she told MainStreet. "I have babies who need diapers admittedly more desperately than I need books.” 

But if you’re a voracious reader, it’s hard to kick the habit. Shook, a media specialist at BohlsenGroup, who helps authors publicize their books via traditional and social media, signed up for Penguin’s First to Read program and receives advanced reader e-copies in addition to downloading free library books.

Alex Birkett, who works in public relations at a technology startup, LawnStarter, an online marketplace for ordering lawn care, reads e-books to help with business growth.

"In startups, there's not often a tried and true path to getting to a solution, so I find that reading from a wide variety of sources helps," Birkett says. There’s also not a lot of disposable income on hand, but Birkett has found some helpful books online at no cost.

Finding the Right Technology 

Daryl Hajek reads about two or three books per week. He finds them at Page By Page Books, which offers classics and presidential inaugural addresses. Hajek also uses Literature Project, which has classic books, speeches, poems and plays with downloadable text-to speech software. In addition to being a voracious reader, Hajek is an author. He has given away about 800 Kindle copies of his novel, “Blood Blossom.”

Readers are having a heyday as indie authors like Hajek, and mainstream publishers, give away e-books as a way to market their books. Book giveaways are often advertised on Bookbub, Ereader News Today, the Fussy Librarian and other websites. While not all of the books on their daily specials are free, they’re typically priced at $2.99 or less, and many are bestsellers.

However, if you’re looking for bestsellers and mainstream books, look no further than your library – online, as Shook did. Nearly 90% of libraries offer patrons access to e-books, according to a 2014 report by Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland. Many library systems have partnered with vendors to allow readers to download books for up to three weeks, just as if they’d signed them out from their local brick-and-mortar branch. There’s the added benefit of never incurring a late fee, because lent books are automatically returned if the borrower doesn’t renew them. Popular books are often already checked out, but patrons can place a hold on them and can have them automatically downloaded to their account when the books become available.

The online public library system is still working out some kinks: download and start to read a book and decide it’s not for you, and with some systems, you’re stuck with it for the entire borrowing period. In at least some cases, you can limit the problem by reducing the amount of time you borrow the book to seven days.

Another plus for online public library holdings: There are popular magazines, movies, CDs, and even courses.

Other online library websites are also worth checking out: Project Guttenberg, which was the first website to offer free e-books, and the online Books Page at the University of Pennsylvania. Both hold older works in the public domain.

—Written by S.Z. Berg for MainStreet