Just to straighten things out, it seems a lot of you guys are considering macs as a child's toy. Quite honestly, Mac covers both extremes. The beginner can use it, but the expert can take advantage of it in ways windows users cannot.
If you are new to computers, there are really 2 strong operating systems. Windows-based and UNIX-based. UNIX will give you less trouble with crashing, and Mac OS X is unix-based, and rock-solid.
If you are a beginner, as you have stated, I would definately reccomend a mac. I've been using computers my whole life, and I got very sick of windows. It's easy to get sick of, as it gives a lot of problems. Some people swear by XP, but from experience trying to run 2k, XP, 9x, on a plethora of different machines, you have a pretty good chance of windows acting up, due to IRQs (though that's not as much of a problem now days), drivers, and other problems.
If you want to dive in, and understand how computers work, I'd reccomend Mac OS X, again, because of the UNIX-base. You can click to the Applications menu, the Utilities Menu, and the Terminal to play with unix. There are a lot of good mac utilities which make running unix applications on the mac a breeze with the fink project (http://fink.sourceforge.net
PCs are really good for gaming, but if you are looking for a less expensive computer, you won't be looking at very much high-end gaming. The macs can keep up with gaming also, though. It's kind of like having a Gamecube, where more games come out on PS2 or XBOX, but Gamecube has a lot of unique gems. Mac does too. For example, there's a fun little game called pop-pop.
Anyways, the call is yours. I know that the iBook is a VERY HIGH QUALITY laptop. It's not the fastest. I just bought a 17" Powerbook for over 3400 dollars, and I feel like I got my money's worth. I'm actually going out to buy an iBook for my sister (she's in Thailand) for her birthday which is coming up really soon, and from what I've seen of them, they are VERY good for beginners, and will give you more than enough to learn on. I have a friend who's a high-end unix user and programmer, and he uses a 500MHz iBook, the slowest of the new ones, and loves it. He's not much of a gamer, though... just the fun little stuff.
Anyways, you can get an iBook for cheap, and I think it would be a good experience. The mac takes care of all of the problems for you. I've never had to do any troubleshooting. The only trouble I have on the mac is jealousy when a good PC-only game comes out... but as I said, I can play enough on here... If I was somehow shut out from the world of PC games I'd be completely content :P.
Until next time.
The Über Mac Advocate