Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) electronic reading device, the Kindle, has received all kinds of attention. The Kindle has proven popular enough that competitors have come sniffing around. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), for example, is reportedly working on a similar kind of reading device.

Many observers have discussed how the Kindle will change the way we read. But I've heard another, seemingly less vital, concern: The Kindle challenges snobbery, and stifles our human curiosity and connection-seeking.

Here's how the argument goes: We often broadcast who we are by what we're seen reading (The Economist vs. USA Today, or Proust vs. The DaVinci Code), and we also gather information about others by what we see in their hands and on their bookshelves. In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, James Wolcott addressed this issue head on, asking, "How can I impress strangers with the gem-like flame of my literary passion if it's a digital slate I'm carrying around, trying not to get it all thumbprinty?"

Your portfolio's snob appeal
The same thing goes for our portfolios. No one really sees them except us. Just as, unbeknownst to us, a Kindle carried by a seemingly sophisticated reader might be chock full of florid romance novels, a seemingly sophisticated and successful investor might actually have a portfolio full of long-shot penny stocks.

Now, I'm fairly comfortable with my portfolio, and I'd suspect you are with yours as well. But still, the fact that they're private means that we may do things that we wouldn't do if everyone could see the actions we took.

For instance, I recently ran across MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR). I noticed its 25% profit margins and its position within the semiconductor and solar industries. For some people, that might be enough to buy shares without any further research. But if people had to reveal their stock holdings, perhaps plastered on your rear windshield like college stickers, then they might think twice before they bought those shares. After all, someone might actually ask you some questions about the company -- and you wouldn't want to embarrass yourself by not being able to answer them.

Even Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-B) Warren Buffett has offered a similar line of thinking. He has advised the managers of the companies he owns, "Make sure everything you do can be reported on the front page of your local newspaper written by an unfriendly, but intelligent reporter." That's because when the world is looking, we're less likely to take short cuts or do ill-advised things.

So think about what your portfolio would look like if your stock holdings were published in the newspaper or posted on your front door. Perhaps you'd want to own some solid dividend growers, such as Automatic Data Processing (NYSE:ADP) and AFLAC (NYSE:AFL) -- the kind that will help you sleep at night and whose merits are obvious. You might also want some smaller companies in industries you understand, such as perhaps the chemical company Huntsman (NYSE:HUN) or the brokerage E*TRADE (NASDAQ:ETFC). (Smaller companies can have an edge in some markets.) It's also smart to include some international holdings, to benefit from other global economies, especially those growing faster than our own.

Your portfolio, in other words, would look respectable to others -- and to you. It would be balanced, with fast and slow growers, big and small companies, domestic and international enterprises. It would have snob appeal, and wouldn't embarrass you -- just like the excellent biography of Benjamin Franklin I've been reading, with its hard cover revealed for all the world to see.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Apple. Apple, AFLAC, and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Automatic Data Processing is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.