I have an old-ish Nikon that I'm happy with. I don't know much about ultra-current digital cameras, but I remember a little bit about the research I did a few years ago. Here are some thoughts:
Buy a camera with a relatively decent lens. Don't let the number of megapixels be the sole factor in your decision---this number means very little if the rest of the camera is crappy. If you're primarily going to be viewing these images on the web, then most resolutions should be sufficient.
Make sure the memory slot uses a widely distributed medium (avoid proprietary slots like Memory Stick or xD, they cost a bundle more). If you pick something like SD (or the mini/micro variants), then you should be able to get 2 gig cards for under $20
. For about $40, you won't really have to worry about hard-drive failures or running out of room.
I suggest getting a camera with optical zoom. This lets you get close ups with the same resolution as long shots. Don't pay attention to digital zoom---that's a cheap trick to make you think that there's zoom on the camera when there isn't.
Look at the type of batteries it takes. I've had success with AA-sized batteries. I use rechargeables, but if they run out of juice, I can always pop in regular alkaline AA in a snap.
I haven't read it, but I find Newegg
to be an excellent place to get product information.