If you woke up to some radical audiobook recommendations on your Spotify dashboard, you’re not alone. An informal poll of Vulture staff found dashboard recs for books by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as anarchist literature by Emma Goldman. (And Polysecure by Jessica Fern, for some reason.) No, Spotify isn’t trying to radicalize the youth. This actually has to do with the company’s recent move to include 15 hours of audiobooks with Spotify Premium. As They Might Be Giants once sang, the communists have the music. But what they don’t have is a copyright.
According to a press release from the app, Spotify’s audiobook catalog includes “titles from major publishers including Hachette, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and RB Media, as well as independent authors and publishers globally, including Bolinda, Dreamscape, and Pushkin.” It also has hella books in the public domain — including Das Kapital. Notably, the two fiction books in my recommended section were also oldies: Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Persuasion by Jane Austen. The reading of Das Kapital in my Spotify recs was done by LibriVox, a group that organizes volunteers to read books in the public domain. It has dozens upon dozens of titles for free on Spotify. And that’s just one of many entities invested in digitizing the public domain, making a virtual Library of Alexandria for Spotify to offer its premium users. Vulture has reached out for comment on how its algorithm picks which books (communist or otherwise) it pushes to the front page.