Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007 | 7:31 a.m.
If the outcome of the 2006 elections had been printed only in books, 25 percent of America's adults wouldn't have known who won. A new poll says that 1 in 4 adults did not read a single book last year.
The Associated Press-Ipsos poll, released Tuesday, says the nation's least avid readers that would be people who did not read books at all were likely to be older, minorities, live in rural areas, have lower incomes and be less educated and less religious than people who did read.
The other 75 percent should not be smug, however. We are not exactly a nation of bibliophiles. The survey shows that the average person polled read four books in 2006. (And no, the instruction manual for a new cell phone did not count.)
The nation's most avid readers, the poll says, were older and more likely to be women, and pop fiction and books about religion were the preferred genres. Democrats and liberals read slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives.
So what else are Americans doing if they are not reading books? That's anyone's guess. In a story by The Washington Post on Tuesday, a 34-year-old telecommunications worker from Texas said he spends his free time lounging in his pool. A 41-year-old Alabama construction worker says that if he wants a good story, he'll "get a movie."
Book industry experts blame television and the Internet.
But if people are choosing the Internet instead of books, it doesn't automatically mean people are filling their heads with junk. And just because something is printed and bound between two covers doesn't mean it is intellectually pure. What's more, we should not dismiss the millions of readers who prefer magazines and newspapers. Quality of content trumps quantity - or at least it should - no matter how the material is packaged.