Aco-worker once jokingly called me a dinosaur because of my reluctance to embrace all things computer.

Aco-worker once jokingly called me a dinosaur because of my reluctance to embrace all things computer.

Not about to suffer that slight, I countered that I was merely a computer-challenged troglodyte, millions of years ahead of those ignorant reptiles.

Had I been quicker on my mental feet, I would have added that ignorsaurs and their computerless cousins ruled the Earth for about 140 million years. We bipeds with our iPhones are relative newbies.

Besides, I'm inching my way forward through the forest of computer chips. Picture a digital slug oozing along in cyberspace, leaving a trail of electronic slime.

It's just that I prefer to read the printed word on paper, particularly if it's a book. Call me a pointy-headed Neanderthal.

A smarter-than-me co-worker agrees that reading books exercises our mental muscles. She further likens using our brains to vacation time: You use it or lose it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should state up front that I'm working on a book that I desperately hope someone will read. In fact, I want you and your many friends — as well as your many enemies — to buy a thousand copies each. Hey, even troglodytes need a retirement income.

That's why my furry eyebrow rose with alarm this past week when a national poll indicated we book-reading cave dwellers are dragging our hairy knuckles toward extinction. Consider this: 27 percent of American adults — more than one in four — read no books in the past year, according to the Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

Among the reasons cited for what it indicated is a bookless trend is our growing fixation on the Internet and computer gadgets. One fellow in the poll said reading books made him sleepy. You have to wonder why he didn't find more interesting reading material. Duh.

One doesn't have to read a book to detect a connection between fewer book readers and the recent closure of our county libraries.

Still, the survey offered some good news. The poll found a school of book enthusiasts among the remaining pool of readers, many of whom read dozens of books a year. Of those who read books, a person typically pored over four in 2006.

Those polled indicated readers had a broad interest in books with the Bible and religious works being read by two-thirds.

About half of the readers included popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries in their reading material. One in five read romance novels. Fewer than five percent admitted reading books about politics, poetry and the classics.

For the Cro-Magnons among us, it doesn't compute that our society is drifting away from the accumulated knowledge found in books. We crouch in the growing darkness, trembling.

But we are timidly venturing forth. This past summer I even bought a digital camera, which apparently does everything but make coffee.

And I now have a cell phone. I'm even looking forward to getting a call in a restaurant so I can talk long and loud about a festering medical condition, albeit non existent. I understand such behavior is proper cell-phone etiquette.

But as for books, you can have them when you pry them from the cold dead fingers of this troglodyte.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at pfattig@mailtribune.com