In amsbook, list items are indented more than in (e.g.) the standard classes.

Of course, this is partly due to the fact that amsbook sets \parindent to 18pt; compare this to 15pt with the standard class book.

However, even when I set \parindent to 15pt, the indentation is still more (and also too much for my taste).

Where in the definition of the document class does amsbook change the indentation?

  • Did you try loading enumitem? – Bernard Sep 27 '16 at 15:29
  • This is less about getting rid of the additional space and more about understanding where it comes from and why. – Deniz Sep 28 '16 at 11:24

this is indeed a misfeature, and infects all the ams document classes. it was introduced owing to a misunderstanding in interpreting the specs provided, and is on the list for reconsideration when the ams classes are updated (but this is not scheduled).

the (re)setting of the indentations is in the block of code beginning at line 709 of amsbook.cls:


(this is preceded directly by the line \let\upn=\textup.)
the offending instruction is on line 714:

  \advance\leftmargini by \normalparindent

if that line is omitted from the resettings, the indentations will be much better behaved. however, i haven't managed to come up with a simple patch, so the best advice i can offer is to copy the entire \AtBeginDocument block into your preamble, wrap it in \makeatletter ... \makeatother, and exterminate the line that includes \normalparindent.

edit: in response to a comment, the misunderstanding when writing the code was due to the "usual" bureaucratic foulup.

as to why it is conceptually wrong, there are several reasons, all stated here (as my own opinion) with respect to ams publications:

  • the extra indentation takes up too much space, and for long lists, pages look unbalanced for no underlying stylistic reason. (a justifiable stylistic reason might be to provide space for side-aligned illustrations.)

  • especially for long lists, more pages are required, unnecessarily, leading to higher production costs and higher selling prices.

  • for "small format" books (the ams publishes several series with a 6-by-9 inch trim), the space allotted to text is too narrow to accomplish attractive line breaking, especially with math, in turn making this material hard to read.

  • ams publications typically contain a lot of display math. within lists, then, the horizontally centered displays look particularly off center, and centering them within the width of the list text (a request seen not infrequently) leaves too little room for effective presentation of display material.

while it is sometimes said that what output looks like doesn't matter, as long as the content is correct, there are those who do care, and effective use of space to enhance the readability of content can be an important factor in the perceived quality of the material.

  • Interesting. Could you briefly elaborate on why and how this is a misunderstanding? In other words, why this is not just too much, but conceptually wrong space. – Deniz Sep 28 '16 at 11:23

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