Thanks for your post.
I can't tell you what to buy, as it's all down to personal preference at the end of the day! You've narrowed it down to two cameras that will deliver great images, but the main difference is obviously the fact that one is a 'bridge' camera, and the other is a DSLR.
A bridge camera is great for people who want similar functionality to a DSLR, but don't want to carry around extra lenses and accessories, and the S9600 is a great choice (if you check out our buyer's guide in our latest issue, you'll see it scored a very respectable 88% in our review).
The D40 however, is an excellent camera that offers more features and more versatile handling, as well as the option of building up a collection of lenses as your skills improve. An entry-level DSLR like this one is a great choice for someone looking to improve their skills in their future - once you've 'outgrown' it, you can keep collection of lenses and upgrade the body.
Check out our buyer's guide for a quick overview, or have a flick through some of our past issues for the in-depth review of these cameras (back-issues available through our e-shop).
My final piece of advice is to make sure you 'try before you buy'. Even if you're buying online, you can still pay a visit to your local camera shop and ask to try out the cameras.
Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy your photography - make sure you share your images with us in our online gallery!