A few weeks ago I finished reading my first digital book, and after the last page I was hooked. I know I'm a stubborn late adopter and surprisingly I don't have anything to say about missing "the tactile aspect of turning the pages of a good book" in some annoying Public Radio voice. I resisted this long for a host of annoying reasons, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by the advantages of reading a book on my tablet.

First, I loved reading in the dark. Ever since we started using these stupid compact fluorescent bulbs our house is dimmer than a dugout with a votive. It's so dark the knitter I married wears one of those camping headlamps to count her stitches. When she has her neighborhood yarn cult over for their weekly kniturgy, she sets up every lamp in the house until our living room looks like a lighting store showroom inhabited by a tribe of mopey women miners staring into their laps. But with a digital book, lighting is irrelevant. You can even read in bed with the lights out.

Second, I love how digital books don't take up any space. There was part of me that resisted digital because I liked collecting physical books. I imagined one day filling a home library and displaying them proudly. I always bought my own books rather than borrowing from a library. I carted them with their stupid little yellow USED stickers from apartment to apartment, move after move. Sadly, I'm beginning to doubt I'll ever have a home library, and most of my books are spine-worn, unsightly paperbacks that I can't bear to give away. They pile up everywhere, but with an e-reader they could all fit in the palm of my hand and be accessed anywhere.

Third, I loved how reading a digital book prevents others from seeing what I'm reading. At last I might sit in the parlor and finish Lady Chatterley's Lover in peace without the maidservants tittering when topping off my tea. Seriously, I've been out of the academy long enough to admit that for far too long, my choice in reading material often said much more about what I wanted others to think about me than what I actually enjoyed. When I was eighteen I took a cross-country trip by Greyhound, bringing nothing to read but a tattered, un-annotated copy of Ulysses. I was sure that everyone I encountered would be deeply impressed by this young traveler and his commitment to deciphering the genius of James Joyce. Eighteen-year-old me got about eighteen pages into the first chapter before I recognized I'd made a huge mistake, and I wasn't even halfway across Illinois. Somewhere in Iowa in the middle of the night, I woke when a new passenger plopped down in the seat next to me. Before I even looked at him I groggily noticed out a window streaked with drool that we'd pulled up to a state prison and the passengers boarding the bus appeared to be newly-released convicts. The gentleman seated next to me with the Philip Morris cologne was wearing a Canadian tuxedo from that unfortunate era when Levi's incorporated dacron polyester into all their lines of denim leisure wear. I assumed it was the finest garment he had in that shoebox of possessions they return after you serve a full sentence for second-degree manslaughter.

"Ulysses, huh?" he sniffled. "That book sucks."

It would be many years before I realized how right that convicted felon was, and that anyone who tells you otherwise just wants you to be impressed by their formidable taste and erudition. It is best just to humor them.

I didn't learn my lesson, and for many years I continued to choose books partly for the impression they'd make on the people sitting across from me on the bus. Unreadability was a virtue. The woman across from me might be reading a book she plucked from the literary fiction table at Borders called something like The Secret History of Tarragon, but I would be reading Ezra Pound's Guide to Kulchur. I was not alone. There was some guy who rode my bus who pondered over the same copy of The Unbearable Twaddle of Milan Kundera for six months (I think he used it to pick up chicks). My own pretension was all the more spurious given the amount of garbage I consumed on television. To this day I can tell you a lot more about The King of Queens than I can King Lear. But let's face it: a lot of us suffer through books we might not actually enjoy for the sake of smugness. I think liberal arts degrees do this to us. We like to show off what we're reading. What else can explain the success of Goodreads? If smugness was not a factor in certain book-buying decisions, I can think of more than a few successful authors who would not be eating so well tonight.

It strikes me that the most virtuous thing about digital books is that this smugness factor is all but eliminated. I remember reading last winter that e-books have dramatically increased sales of romance novels, and it's easy to see why. The guy across from you at the dentist office could be reading David Foster Wallace or Clive Cussler. Who cares? The books I've been reading lately are ones I want to read without concern for what anyone thinks. I can't believe how dumb I was to spend so many years reading only smart books. I almost forgot how much fun it is to read.

So hope has replaced stubbornness. How incredible is it that it's almost possible to bring every book you've ever loved wherever you go? Google keeps adding all kinds of crazy old public domain books to its archives, and so many of the classics are available for free. Instead of bemoaning the death of the industry, I think it's exciting for anyone who already publishes digitally to recognize a future where something doesn't have to be printed on pulp to be legitimate.

So if you see me at the playground staring at an e-reader, just don't ask me what I'm reading. For all you know, I could be playing Angry Birds.